When Stedin, a major distribution system operator from the Netherlands, asked its protection, automation and control units how substation data would improve their work, they received a list of 63 use cases.
The survey was a deliberate way to not only get the best picture of business value but “shift from technology push to user pull”, explains Anne van der Molen, Grid Strategist at Stedin.
Through their long wishlist, Stedin’s protection, automation and control units envisioned digitising Stedin’s substations as a way to manage the impact of the energy transition on grid services.
Examples included load forecasting and control; analytics for asset planning and working on operational maintenance projects; and digital twin solutions, a virtual simulation that could “help asset management and maintenance departments a lot if fed with information from real and actual assets”, says Van der Molen.
As part of Stedin’s wider transformation process from a distribution network operator to a distribution system operator, as well as enabling substation automation, the utility devised a company-wide programme for capability development.
Van der Molen describes this as a roadmap “to get people in touch with data and news ways of working” grouped into business capabilities such as a better view of grid utilisation, power quality, software development, analytics capabilities, and system integration skills for operational technology.
Unlocking primary substation data
It was clear from the business units’ wish list that they wanted faster access to substation data to allow for operational feedback loops such as quality of service from real-time or near real-time asset performance, explains Van der Molen.
So the next step, he tells the audience of an Engerati substation automation webinar, was figuring out how to get data out of the substations and make it available to business units.
“If you look at the ICT capabilities needed to get to that result, it requires a lot of system integration, not only through an efficient interface and integration with the application landscape but also model data to simplify the data integration.”
A key part of the substation automation was using international standard IEC 61850, a communication protocol for substation automation that the DSO has adopted since 2007 and is implementing across its network.
Van der Molen explains how the proposed model replaced the 104 gateway with IEC 61850 to draw model data from the central information system (CIM).
Plugging in the PI Connector
Stedin decided to test the model of getting data from the substations into the central application store “without endangering our primary substations”.
Van der Molen recalls the concern at Stedin of how this might affect the performance of the substation automation system.
The solution was to do a small-scale pilot with the OSIsoft PI System.
“You can’t find a lot of out-of-the-box systems these days that do 61850 and CIM integration directly. This was a big leap so we decided to have a step in-between,” he says.
The technical solution was a piece of software that Stedin and OSIsoft co-developed that could listen in to the process noise within the substation and forward it to the utility’s existing PI System to give an enterprise-wide view of the data.
The OSIsoft PI Connector, which was put in the pilot site - a primary substation in the Dutch city of Utrecht, is able to interrogate IEDs, says Van der Molen. Once it had gathered the IED data model, it then forwards and store this in the PI asset framework.
Benefits of digitised substation
One of the benefit of the connector was Stedin being able to build model data out of the substation without any manual work.
“This is the challenge we have in the maintenance cycle today. We are doing a lot of manual inspections to feed maintenance and SCADA data into risk models.
“We then manually transition this into condition assessment and maintenance jobs, which is usually done through a yearly planning cycle.”
By connecting the Utrecht primary substation to the PI System, using the data infrastructure as a benchmark, Stedin was able to get asset management data out of the substation that they couldn’t before. “Our engineers could remotely go from their office location deep into the substation and get under the hood of the system,” says Van der Molen.
The next step he says, is to uncover added value by making data more available. “We know there a lot of user groups in the company that could use the data so we are keen to develop more use cases.”