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Digital Substations Enhance Flexibility in Times of Change

Dec. 1, 2018
Smart grid technologies such as digital substations give utilities enhanced abilities to adapt to and create new opportunities from such change.

The evolving complexity of today’s electricity marketplace is palpable. Digitally enabled or enhanced innovations such as energy storage, demand response, community aggregation of solar and DERs all represent connected energy value that can be of benefit to utilities or eat their lunch. Smart grid technologies such as digital substations give utilities enhanced abilities to adapt to and create new opportunities from such change.

In a word or two, digital substations give utilities flexibility, which is key in times of uncertainty. New digital substations and partial conversions of existing substations can increase capacity, improve resiliency, speed repairs and expedite the design of system expansions or modifications to accommodate new resources. Digital components and a wide array of advanced analytics available for them facilitate more efficient operation of utility networks including monitoring, diagnostics and control.

Further, digital substation networks can be enhanced with data management and communication software for automatic management of service and cybersecurity relevant data across multiple assets. As an example, ABB’s SDM600 System data manager provides disturbance record handling, cyber security management and maintenance and service data management.  Other advances possible with a digital substation network include wide-area automation for rapid logic analysis and selectivity; fault location and service restoration (self-healing); load-shedding and islanding; and the automatic setting of relays.

ABB has been on the forefront of digital IEDs and substations domestically and abroad for over ten years.  The company has 30 digital substation projects in sixteen countries and 10,000 IEC 61850 substation automation systems installed worldwide.  A short video highlighting ABB’s digital substation experience can be found here:

An example of an ABB digital substation designed to take advantage of a changing utility environment is the Kerala, India, Thiruvanathapuram Technopark: one of the largest and most digitally advanced substations in the country. It will accommodate a rapidly expanding IT park that requires highly dependable power for its business clients and will assist in India’s conversion from a traditional to a digital power network. Featured in this substation is ABB’s Standalone Merging Unit (SAM600), which collects information from primary equipment in the field and converts it into IEC 61850 digital format for control, monitoring and protection applications.

Another example is ABB’s selection to participate in the Future Intelligent Transmission Network Substation (FITNESS) project of SP Energy Networks, a UK-based electricity transmission and distribution network operator. The FITNESS project will equip two bays of the existing Wishaw 275-kV substation in Scotland with new fully integrated digital protection and control systems.The substation is being expanded to accommodate potential grid delivery of large quantities of wind power available in the region. ABB will deliver a suite of digital substation components, including IEDs, non-conventional instrument transformers, merging units and phasor measurement units that are interfaced with the IEC 61850-9-2 process bus architecture and with a wide area monitoring platform.

The electric power landscape is rapidly evolving. Whether the challenge is finding mutually beneficial means to integrate bulk renewables, local DERs, microgrids or ultra-high quality power technology parks, digital substations and other smart grid technologies can provide electric utilities the edge needed to thrive and enhance cyber-security in the coming age.    

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