A modern approach to network automation

Schneider Electric highlights key considerations for networks seeking to balance the demands of an evolving network with existing infrastructure

A modern approach to network automation

Substation technology is continually evolving and improving. It’s changing to accommodate the complex challenges that have arisen from (and are driving) decarbonised, digitised and decentralised power distribution systems. Increasingly, this means that modern electrical distribution technology is imbued with new digital features.

Still, it is no small feat for electrical networks to adopt new technology. Substations are spread throughout the country – found in city centres with easy access to communication networks, or in remote locations, that could take a day to reach.

Here are some key considerations for utilities and other electrical network operators in order to balance the demands of an evolving power network with existing infrastructure, and get return on investment.

Digital transformation

More than just an industry buzzword, digital transformation is the reinvention of an organisation and its processes through digital technology. For utilities, this means improved performance and the reduction of customer downtime. For digital transformation to happen in a controlled way, attention must be paid to the existing, legacy systems and more modern applications. Take directional fault passage indication for example – with modern applications, substation operators can choose to automate this function if they need updates from a remote substation.

Communication

Existing networks are having to feed increasing stacks of data in real-time, at levels they were not originally designed to manage. This is proving challenging for distribution network operators, who as a result are unable to perform simple tasks, such as control signals. Yet there are connected devices that address substation automation challenges. Remote terminal units, meters, and protection relays are being designed for easy data exchange and built with flexibility and adaptability in mind. With new standards being introduced, like IEC 61850, devices will become increasingly vendor-agnostic and interoperable – today and ten years from now.

Security

Protecting people and assets is always a priority, and technology must support this goal. Cyber security is a major concern — a security breach can be costly and damaging for a business and its customers. Substation devices and operational technology have made huge strides in this area. Take role-based access control, for example. Defined by IEC 62351, it grants certain controls and functions to dedicated individuals that cannot be overridden or accessed by anyone without the same clearance.

Ease of use

Electrical distribution technology should ultimately simplify its users’ tasks. Our expectation of technology interfaces has been largely influenced by the experience we get from everyday handheld devices – like mobiles and tablets. Therefore, any equipment built to perform tasks like accessing data, configuring commands, and viewing information should be easy to use, install, and maintain.

 

Profile: Easergy T300

  • Advanced fault detection. Ensures reliable power availability and reduces outage times on MV and LV networks
  • Accuracy. Voltage and power measurement supports integration of MV and LV distributed energy resources by providing high-accuracy data to the Volt-VA system for real-time management
  • Powerful. An integrated all-in-one solution for MV/LV control and monitoring.
  • Simple. A modern tool entirely designed to simplify ownership from installation, to commissioning and maintenance
  • Flexible. A compact and modular design for many customer applications and configurable to their needs
  • Digital. Up-to-date communication for future-proof systems with open protocols and a digital life cycle
  • Secure. Helps to secure the control and data acquisition for the operation of electrical networks including cyber security of the substation

 


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