Substation Time Synchronization

Author, Bill Dickerson, Arbiter, Canada

Applications of Substation Time

For nearly a hundred years, the electric power industry operated without an external time reference, except perhaps to ensure that the average frequency was correct so as to keep clocks with synchronous motors running on-time. The past decade has seen an explosion in the use of accurate time in the substation and generation plant, now that accurate timing signals are inexpensively available everywhere. How and why are power engineers using this capability? How can you implement precision time synchronization in your utility? And, does it matter what time zone you use to record event data?

The value of time synchronization is best seen by understanding that the power grid is a single, complex and interconnected system. What happens in one part of the grid affects operation elsewhere.

Understanding, and possibly controlling, these interactions requires a means to compare what is happening at one place and time with that happening at other places and times. This requires a common frame of reference.

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