New York Power Authority Receives Funding for Asset Protection Program

The New York Power Authority (NYPA), together with Georgia Tech, Southern Company and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), has been awarded a $2.35 million grant from the Department of Energy to begin phase two of the setting-less protection program. The first installation of its type in the world, the setting less protection program technology will ultimately add a layer of cybersecurity and resiliency to both NYPA assets and the New York State electric grid. This will be accomplished through new setting-less digital relays that create an autonomous protection and control system, advancing both NYPA’s Smart Generation and Transmission Initiative and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision.

Existing protection systems use electro-mechanical and numerical relays that each compare a single specific measurement to a prescribed setting, such as measuring for overcurrent over a specified length of time. When the setting is exceeded, the relay will trip a circuit breaker to protect a portion of the grid from abnormal conditions. The limitation of this simple pattern-recognition approach is that the single quantity being measured does not always represent the actual condition of the zone being protected.

Instead of focusing on a single setting for each relay, the setting-less protection approach measures as much data as possible and uses complex models of the asset under protection to develop dynamic estimations of the condition of the asset or zone being protected. Measured data is compared to these estimates to identify bad data, model changes or other anomalies, allowing the relays to issue diagnostics or alarms accordingly. Dynamic state estimation removes the complexities of present-day protection schemes while offering greater accuracy than existing conventional relays. Additionally, digital relays don’t need to coordinate with the rest of the system to function properly, allowing for faster identification of abnormal conditions over traditional relaying.

“This is cutting-edge technology that hasn’t been implemented before,” says Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “We’re committed to working with our partners in the industry to find new and better solutions for managing the grid of the future and improving cybersecurity.”

Cybersecurity is a major focus area when it comes to setting-less protection and digital relays. The setting-less relays will have autonomous protection and control systems, where relay control can be distributed to each power plant and substation on the grid. The relays are also integrated into an intelligent protection scheme that continuously validates data to identify potential physical tampering or cyberattacks and flags compromised data for system operators.

“This first-of-a-kind approach essentially defends against cyberattacks by leveraging knowledge of the state of the system to detect and identify data attacks or malicious commands,” says Ramadan Elmoudi, NYPA research and development engineer and project manager for the setting-less protection program. “This gives operators time to change the topology of the grid to isolate anything that has been compromised and, at the same time, minimize the impact on the bulk energy system.”

Phase one of the program, a three-year project ending in 2019 supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), developed the setting-less relays and compared their performance against existing electro-mechanical relays used by NYPA. Phase two, scheduled to be completed in 2022, is a multi-step process. After lab tests of the technology and initial system design, the new setting-less digital relays will be installed at NYPA’s Marcy substation, as well as a substation owned by Southern Company.

Georgia Tech has been involved with the project since phase one and brings expertise in the design and implementation of protective relay technology, as well as industry-leading lab testing capabilities. Southern Company joined the project in phase two and, along with NYPA, has a history of implementing cutting-edge technology to protect their assets. Both utilities are working closely with Georgia Tech to develop and test the setting-less relays. By performing the pilot studies within their substations, they are serving as early adopters of the technology while ensuring it is ready for wider adoption across the industry.

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