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The Digital Substation Advantage Plus

Aug. 17, 2017
Digital substations should be the brains behind every modern highly functioning automated electric system

Advanced digital substations have become mainstream with the implementation of IEC 61850, the international standard for communication networks and systems for power utility automation. While we are not yet there, a bit of research reveals many arguments why digital substations should be the brains behind every modern highly functioning automated electric system.  Following the digital substation path enables the efficient design, procurement, construction, commissioning and operation of safer, more productive and more reliable substations.It also helps utilities realize the maximum benefits from other parts of a digitalized electric system. That is the “plus” in the title.

ABB is one of only a few companies delivering digital substations and other hardware and software for achieving the greatest potential of digital technology applied to electric systems.  For example, beyond the individual substation there may be a need for fleet condition monitoring of transformers and other key substation equipment. ABB has the Asset Health Center solution for that issue, which incorporates ABB operational technology (OT) subject matter expertise and ABB information technology (IT) software knowledge.

ABB recently sponsored the release of an updated version of its “We are bridging the gap. Enabling digital substations” presentation through Renewable Energy World and PowerGrid International. In summary form and with lots of good graphics, Rick Nicholson, Head of Product Management, Enterprise Software, ABB and Stephen Clifford, Head of Product Management, Substation Automation, ABB analyze the evolution of substations from conventional to digital; discuss the role of nonconventional instrument transformers (NCITs) and other equipment available from ABB for a conversion or new substation; and provide some quantified order of magnitude benefits of a digital substation.

One of the highlighted offerings from ABB is the SDM600 System data manager. This is a comprehensive software solution for automatic management of service and cyber security relevant data across an organization’s substations.  It provides disturbance record handling, cyber security management and maintenance and service data management.

In this updated presentation, Rick and Stephen go on to discuss what is possible once a complete substation conversion is made, with all signals digital on the station and process level.  These steps, which result in many benefits of their own, also create a pathway to a whole new level of system automation and control.  The ABB Ability Connected Asset Lifecycle Management system can be used to provide asset performance management, enterprise asset management and even workforce management. For example, the SDM600 has a Historian module that records specs and performance history for connected equipment. The system can alert a mobile workforce if a piece of equipment exceeds its normal operating parameters, prioritize various work requests and even provide documentation for completed work orders. This is all made possible with ABB’s program offerings including Asset Health Center, Ellipse Select Enterprise Asset and Work Management system and several Ellipse SaaS apps.

Key aspects of the above presentation are summarized in the PDF available for download below, but it is very worthwhile investing about an hour to hear Rick and Stephen on the recorded presentation.You will hear that any substation can be transformed to a digital version, including without replacing primary equipment. Then the sky is the limit with possible system refinements for digital equipment that can lengthen equipment longevity, reduce O&M costs, increase system flexibility and resiliency, improve safety and much more.

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