A new era of efficiency is possible thanks to substation automation. Maintenance and monitoring are serious challenges for utility companies. Even small electric cooperatives may maintain 10,000 miles of power lines and several dozen substations. With an automated substation control house at each site, remote personnel can easily monitor conditions from a central office.
Remote Monitoring Basics
Human machine interfaces (HMIs) communicate with numerous intelligent electronic devices and remote terminal units (RTUs). Microprocessors, computer-driven devices and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems transmit signals using telephone lines, fiber optic cables or radio waves. Newer audio and video capabilities allow remote workers to communicate with equipment and field crews.
Using Monitoring Data
Data supplied by the RTU is visualized to show the condition of the substation and its components. The information can be used to diagnose problems, provide fault protection and perform important functions, such as operating reclosers and switches. These automated systems give utilities a way to interact with components located in the substation control house. These include switchboard panels, batteries, chargers, meters, relays, power line carriers and supervisory controls.
The Advantages of Automated Substations
Successful substation automation projects have numerous advantages for power distributors in terms of cost and efficiency. Soft controls are a central feature in the next generation of power substations. Companies today can choose between continuing with legacy equipment or performing substantial upgrades when building, replacing or expanding substations and switchyards. Here are a few of the positive features that have encouraged end-users to adopt the technology.
- The cost of hiring and transporting field technicians is reduced.
- Maintenance and operational tasks can be completed faster.
- Remote monitoring and control capabilities improve reliability.
- Fully enclosed switch houses protect equipment from the weather.
- Substation protection and control systems reduce security risks.
The Challenges of New Technology
New technology poses new risks. Distribution automation projects require many additional considerations during the design and planning phases. Engineering, procurement and construction partners must have substantial knowledge of the hardware, software, controls and transmission methods. Here are a few of the most common issues.
- Engineers must develop robust protocols for updating software and rebooting.
- The interface has to be protected from hackers and cybersecurity threats.
- Equipment should be forward and backward compatible to support various software.
- To offer decades of service, the system needs to accommodate expansions and upgrades.
- Contingency plans for maintenance and hardware failure should be available.
Substation automation can be a game changer for companies that maintain transmission and distribution substations. To learn more about mobile substation equipment and automation systems, contact Equisales Associates by calling 713-733-3999.