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Page 46


www.us-tech.com


March, 2020


Simplifying Distribution Automation in Substations and Pole-Tops


By Jeff Elliott


processor-based relays, meters, and monitoring de- vices. The information collected is then sent to communication processors or RTUs, before being passed on to proprietary HMI interfaces, SCADA master stations, energy manage- ment systems, and enterprise networks. Within this scheme, the component


U


parts are often cobbled together by utility automation groups from a multitude of com- peting options with varying protocols (some proprietary), configuration options, wireless transmission bands, and interconnections. Given that utilities may have hun-


dreds of substations and even more pole- tops to monitor and control remotely, the complexity of distribution automation has traditionally been staggering. Fortunately, over the past two decades, substation au- tomation has evolved and changed. “In the past, the design of the substa-


tion was a patchwork of many different de- vices,” says Russ Fanning, a P.E. with over a decade experience in the automation group of a large Wisconsin utility. “Once you final- ly got the patchwork figured out, you could replicate that pattern, but when you went to the next substation and you wanted to bring in something new, you were starting from scratch again and trying to patch that new piece in.”


C 4:53 PM Page 1


Utility substation automation can become very complex, involving a variety of electronic devices, relays, meters, and monitors.


Reducing Complexity Today, Fanning says the focus is on stripping


information in many protocols, while performing sophisticated logic functions and alarms, without the need for PLCs and racks of RTUs. These all-in- one devices even eliminate the need for security- risk PCs and proprietary HMI interfaces. The communication and automation processor


tility substation automation schemes are typically complex, involving a variety of in- telligent electronic devices (IEDs), micro-


out as much of the complexity associated with sub- station automation as possible. Technological ad- vances over the past several years have reduced the need for the same amount of hardware in favor of all-in-one communication and automation processor units that can interpret and distribute


can connect to nearly any substation device in its native protocol, perform advanced math and logic, and securely present the source or calculated data to any number of clients in their preferred protocol.


Interpreting Communications and Protocols Fanning, who worked for a Wisconsin-


based utility for nearly 40 years, began his career as a protection technician. After earning his engineering degree in 1990, he worked in substation engineering as a pro- tection engineer, then R&D engineer and in 2007 became a principal engineer in the substation automation group. “In my last five or six years at the util-


ity, I was responsible for the distribution automation and substation integration, using the Orion substation automation plat- form to interface with all the IEDs that were inside the substation and at the pole- tops. I integrated pole-top device IEDs into the distribution when they were enabled with communication capabilities,” says Fan- ning.


Fanning was first introduced to No-


vaTech, the company he now works for, in 2002. NovaTech has more than 30 years as a supplier of automation and engineering solutions for electric utilities and process


manufacturing industries. The company’s flagship product is the Orion substation automation plat- form, which performs an expanding array of au- tomation and security applications in electric util- ity substations with minimal set up and mainte-


Continued on next page


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