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Digital Substations Deliver a Maintenance Testing Advantage

By replacing hardwired interfaces with IEC 61850-based communications interfaces, utilities can have remote access to the substation for remote testing

This blog segment focuses on the growing adoption of digital substations and the many advantages such infrastructure provides for its owners.  No area is more notable than the growing adoption of IEC 61850-based substation protection, automation and control systems that can be designed for remote testing. By replacing hardwired interfaces with IEC 61850-based communications interfaces, utilities can have remote access to the substation for remote testing of multifunctional protection IEDs and other components.  This sounds straightforward, but it requires preplanning in the design phase and training on new tools and procedures to ensure the same levels of accuracy and system security during and after the testing process compared to the old methods. The rewards, however, are significant and include reduced outage time, improved safety for testing crews, minimal setup requirements, independence over weather conditions and more.

Dr. Alexander Apostolov with Omicron wrote a good review article about maintenance testing in digital substations.   He starts with the premise that such testing is normally performed in an energized substation to diagnose and identify equipment problems or confirm the effectiveness of changes to settings, upgrades or repairs to protection devices or another components of the fault clearing system.  Dr, Apostolov recommends the proper order for the testing of system components, the importance of isolating the components and systems to be tested, and how one utilizes the test related features defined in the IEC 61850 standard for the digital system diagnostics.   His article can be found here:  https://www.elp.com/articles/powergrid_international/print/volume-22/issue-8/features/testing-in-the-digital-substation.html.

ABB has been at the forefront of digital IEDs and substations domestically and abroad for many years.  The company is taking digital advantages such as maintenance testing a major step forward with its new Ability Ellipse Asset Performance Management (APM) system.  This software solution was introduced as the ABB Asset Health Center.  It utilizes the same remote communications capabilities used for maintenance testing to provide equipment health and performance insights which can prevent critical asset failures and optimize asset lifecycle costs.  The Ellipse APM system also is flexible, so its speed of implementation and extendibility allows APM programs to start small and grow with an organization’s digital transition.

Dr. Apostolov’s article touches upon Edition 2 of IEC 61850 and his expectation that equipment designed to the latest standard will continue to improve in areas such as automated configuration and execution of test procedures as well as remote testing.  All of these improvements should make programs such as Ellipse APM more valuable for the management of our digital systems. 

TAGS: Substations
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