Editorial

by Alex Apostolov, Editor-in-Chief

Protection and Distribution Automation 1+1=11

Smart Grid is continuing to be a buzz word that is drawing a lot of attention in utilities, large or small suppliers and academia. Protection and Distribution Automation are two of the components that can deliver the fastest improvements and visible results.

Obviously, there are significant similarities and differences between protection and distribution automation. Both began rapidly evolving about a quarter century ago to become, together with substation automation, some of the main building blocks of a smarter grid. Designing and implementing a smarter grid is not just a matter of putting together a system using different components, but doing it in a most efficient way.

According to the IEEE Standards Definition Database (September 20, 2011,) Distribution Automation is a technique used to limit the outage duration and restore service to customers through fault location identification and automatic switching. This, combined with the goals of modern distribution protection systems to increase the sensitivity of detecting abnormal system conditions and reduce fault clearing time, can really significantly improve the performance of the distribution systems of the future.

For it to happen however, both domains will have to become a single domain. And this is especially true with the continuously increasing penetration of Distributed Energy Resources and their integration into the distribution systems.

To a certain extent the goals of Advanced Distribution Automation to provide real-time adjustment to changing loads and generation, and to reduce outage duration without operator intervention are similar to the goals of adaptive distribution systems protection. Both require the use of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) and a communications infrastructure for monitoring and control of field devices and DERs. This implies the development of information technology (IT) that will enable automated decision making in the field, and transmission of critical information to the utility substation automation system, or regional control center.

The protection IEDs play an important role in such IT infrastructure by supporting real-time data acquisition and communication with utility databases and other automated systems. Accurate modeling of protection systems and distribution operations should supports optimal decision making in the field and at the control center.

Achieving these goals requires that electric power system protection, distribution automation and substation automation experts join forces with communications and information technology experts and work together for the definition of the functional and performance specification, and the architecture of the Advanced Distribution Protection, Automation and Control Systems (ADPACS) of the future.

  • Such a system concept will enable all functions in the distribution system to work together and contribute to:

  • Outage prevention and recovery

  • Reduced fault clearing time and outage duration

  • Optimal system performance under changing conditions

  • Improved quality

  • Reduced investments and operating costs

All of the above will allow us to have a system that is not just a collection of modules, each with its own specific function, working independently.

Instead, we will allow us to have a system of modules interconnected tightly in order to perform in the most efficient way integrated data acquisition, protection, automation and control functions in the distribution systems of the future.

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

Bill Gates

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