Last Word Opinions

Centralized Protection and Control – Yes or No?

This is the question that many people in our industry are asking today. And as usual, the answer starts with “It Depends!”

What does it depend on? As can be seen from the articles in the magazine, there are many different ways of implementing a centralized protection, automation and control system.

If we think about the architecture, some people will prefer a system that will have only pure process interface devices providing streams of current and voltage sampled values, digitized data or information for non-electrical system parameters (such as temperature, vibration or pressure) and binary signals for switchgear status and control. All protection, automation, control, monitoring and recording functions are implemented in a central substation computer.

This is to me the closest to the vision of the separation between hardware and software – a continuously growing trend in our industry. This is also very close to what is happening in the world around us – you buy a smart phone using an Android operating system and then you install on it all the applications that you need to manage your everyday life.

In our case we should have a substation hardened cyber secured computer platform running a standardized real-time operating system that comes with an applications development environment. Anyone should be able to create applications based on the real-time data coming from the different process interface devices in the substation that can be purchased and integrated in a centralized protection and control system.

I think it is clear that for this to work, we will need to have some trusted certification authority to ensure that the applications not only meet the functional and performance requirements, but also interoperate with other vendor’s application running in parallel as part of the centralized protection, automation and control system.

As mentioned, there are many other possible architectures with various functional allocations between the process interface devices and the central computer, but we will leave this discussion for a future issue of PAC World.