Why GOOSE is Just the Tip of the Iceberg - A holistic view on IEC 61850 business case

Authors: Peter Rietmann and Steven Kunsman, ABB

Challenges of substation automation in the 21st century

Although nuclear power is very clean, the storage of waste and political pressure are resulting in the death of many of these plants.  For example, the state of California has one on the most advanced states in the US for renewable penetration. Their proliferation of solar and wind farms to residential roof top panels has introduced additional challenges to the electric utility from the managing power flow when the wind or sun is not present to thinking about how to protect the system as power flows are much different from when the system was designed.   Germany has announced plans to exit nuclear power by the year 2022 and in May 2016, the country for the first time was nearly 100% sourced from 45.5 gigawatts of renewable energy.  Also notably, Costa Rica was announced as the first country to be supplied by 100% renewable energy resources for more than 76 days straight in 2016. In 2015 the country managed to power itself for a total of 299 days without burning oil, coal, or natural gas.

This trend will continue and dramatically change how the electrical grid is composed in the future. The traditionally hierarchical power system is moving to a much more distributed electric grid with much smaller energy producers creating energy from eco-friendly resources such as solar, wind and water, allowing for the possibility to island into a microgrid improving resiliency. It is obvious that such small distributed energy resources are much more difficult to control as the power supplied is completely coupled to the changing availability of the natural source.
To overcome these challenges posed by the evolution of the grid, new ideas and out of the box thinking are required as well innovative applications and technology that support advanced functions and higher levels of integration and interaction of the power control and automation systems. A key enabler are open standards facilitating the seamless interaction of a heterogeneous set of automation controllers, protection devices, SCADA systems and intelligent primary equipment.

Increasing demand on refurbished substations: Managing the aging infrastructure is a major challenge for most utilities and many substations are approaching - or have passed -- their end of life. The presence of electro-mechanical relays is still popular. The variation and non-standardized old substations have become a challenge and smooth migration is required to not only ensure operation as is but more importantly, to have a strategy and concept in place that enables the connection and integration into future grid architecture and allows the flexibility needed to cope with the changing requirements, and thus enabling the highest level of monitoring and automation.

Increasing capital costs and time on project execution: With the general trend toward liberalization of the energy market, time and cost are under the constant radar of municipalities, investor-owned and government-owned utilities. As an example FERC1000, a recent US Federal regulation requires electrical utilities to competitively bid new infrastructure projects to ensure that cost-effective capital investments benefit the rate payer. For major capital intense projects, the new regulation will drive utilities and third party integrators to find the most cost optimized solutions to remain competitive.
The Digital Substation offers many benefits.  Full utilization of modern sensors integrated into breakers and advanced protection and control devices provide a significant footprint reduction through functional consolidation.  Additionally, a solution based on open standards like IEC 61850 enables ease of the integration and the ability to replace an extensive amount of copper wires with a few fiber optic communications networks.  These changes are necessary to drive the substation cost downward.  The Digital Substation will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent sections.

Safeguarding investment and the aging workforce:  An old saying goes: “Those who rest will rust.” Complacency in a changing environment will only result in you being left behind. It will not help companies nor individuals if good practices or concepts are put on hold forever. Utilities are and will continue to struggle with the aging workforce and imminent retirement of key staff, thus losing years of valuable system experience and history. To ensure quick learning and that long term knowledge standards such as IEC 61850 are passed on, it becomes crucial to source new people and get them onboard right out of school, so they can use in practice what they have learned academically, so that the time needed to train them at the utilities will be very short.

Understanding the conflict with technology progress:  Traditionally but also in future grids, the electrical substations will play a major role building a reliable power network. These substations are still the key nodes that build the network of power. The basic functions in substations have remained unchanged for years. We still need to monitor, control and protect the different elements of an electrical substation. The technical solutions on the other side are constantly changing, e.g., the technology for data processing and communication. Additionally, available standards are progressing and new standards appear where technology and applications require it. For new solutions the fundamental questions raised on the outlined conflicts before are: Can investments in old solutions be re-used? That is, the applied technology, engineering and configuration, workforce qualification and skills?

Solving the technology conflict: The answer is YES, IEC 61850 solves the technology conflict. It provides comprehensive modelling functions that enable a unified definition of all functions in a system independent of the technology used. Primary equipment, substation topology, protection, control quality, etc. are examples of what can be described. The function oriented modelling is based on self-describing information regardless of how the manufacturer defines and interprets it. The data model is completely de-coupled from the technology used based on a common data scheme for all applications.

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