Substation Automation Develops Further

As much as electric utilities are embracing transmission and distribution automation, substation automation is revolutionising the way utilities manage their network systems.
Published: Tue 11 Feb 2014

Substation automation is a rapidly increasing area of interest-its market is expected to exceed US$100 billion in the near future.

Currently, transmission and distribution utilities are focusing on full substation automation of the retrofit substations or partially automated substations that already exist.

What drives substation automation?

The biggest drivers of this market are:

  • Aging energy infrastructure

  • Demands of smart grid infrastructure (the need for a multifunctional solution that comply with advanced communication protocols is growing).

The market is driven mainly by the Intelligent Electronic Devices that provide enormous barrier-less monitoring and control functions across the substation. Also, the communication networks that are used to control the substation devices and for transferring data, are having high growth rates pertaining to the emergence of new and advanced technologies and their importance in automation.

Benefits for the utility

Substation automation goes beyond the traditional SCADA in providing added capability. Data obtained can go a long way to improving operations and maintenance, increasing system and staff efficiencies, and leveraging and deferring significant capital investments.

Applications may include remote access to intelligent electronic devices relay configuration ports, waveforms, event data, diagnostic information, video for security or equipment status assessment, metering, switching, volt/VAR management, and others.

Benefits of newer microprocessor-based relays and other intelligent devices include:

  • Flexibility and rich functionality

  • Low cost monitoring analysis and diagnosis of electrical faults in the power network

  • Newer intelligent electronic devices provide optional network interfaces such as distributed network protocol (DNP) 3.0 over transmission control protocol (TCP)/internet protocol (IP)/Ethernet.

  • More utilities are gaining access to fiber optic based communications at some substation locations.

  • The implementation of IP wireless communication solutions to substations is increasing as it enhances substation automation possibilities and benefits such as primary equipment condition data, fault statistics, and data useful for preventive equipment maintenance.

As their benefits are realised, more research is carried out to improve current systems. For instance, the collaboration between Texas Instruments and Triangle MicroWorks has resulted in a product which aims to help developers create more innovative technology. The technology is aimed at reducing energy consumption as well as developing smarter connected devices for the smart grid.

The optimised solution for smart grid substation automation allows developers to create low-cost IEC 61850-compliant solutions. Triangle MicroWorks’ IEC 61850 Stack is optimized for TI’s Sitara™ AM335x processors and other TI SoCs.

The optimized substation automation solution shortens the development cycle, while reducing system cost and complexity by replacing traditional ASIC or FPGA solutions with a Sitara-processor-based industrial communication subsystem (PRU-ICSS).