Editorial Opinions

Editorial – Issue 053 September 2020

A Time Machine

by Alex Apostolov, Editor-in-Chief

Many times, in our lives we wish that we could get in a time machine and travel to a moment in the past to see what exactly happened and to try to change something so we can impact some moment in the future.

To me one of the requirements for a time machine is that we should be able not just to see what happened, but to experience it, to check how we are going to behave in that specific moment, under these circumstances.

If we are to define the requirements for a time machine, here are some:

  • It should be able to take you to a specific location
  • It should be able to take you to a specific moment in time
  • It should be able to take you there for a specific duration of time
  • It should be able to make you experience the selected moment at the selected location

Some of you may say that you would like to be able to travel also to a moment in the future, but my opinion, as well as the opinion of many philosophers is that the future does not exist.

There are too many probable futures, depending on zillions of interdependent events and interactions, to be possible to define a multi-dimensional event at a specific moment in the future. That is why we are going to limit our time travel requirements to only moments in the past.

This is because the past events really happened and where and what we are today is the result of these events.

In order to ensure a better future, it is important to learn from the mistakes we made in the past and make the necessary changes, so we don’t repeat them.

The requirements in our everyday life most of the time are not very different from our professional life. We also need to be able to figure out when we made a mistake, learn from it and make the necessary changes, so it doesn’t happen again in the future.

Well, in our world of electric power systems protection, automation and control we already have a time machine – this is the disturbance recorder.

Actually, if we would like to be more precise, it is better to say that it is the combination between a disturbance recording and analysis system, and state-of-the-art test equipment. How does it work?

The recording equipment is accurately time synchronized, so we will know when exactly the recorded event occurred, and we can go back to that moment in time whenever we want.

We can record different types of events with different resolution – MHz, KHz, Hz – using sampled values or synchrophasors.

The integrated fault and disturbance recording functions in multifunctional protection IEDs allow us to capture events at any location in the electric power system.

Based on all this recorded data, and the event reports from the protection IEDs, the disturbance analysis system can come to a conclusion if everything had operated as expected, or if there was a mis-operation. Advanced artificial intelligence-based methods and tools can help us learn from the mistake and come up with a solution that will prevent this from happening in the future.

To make sure that the lesson has been learned and the problem solved, we can send the protection IED on a time-travelling trip with our time machine – the test system replaying the recording from an event at a selected time and location.

From the articles in this issue it is clear how the disturbance recording, and analysis technologies have developed and continue to improve, so they can serve the PAC community in its efforts to improve the reliability, security and efficiency of electric power systems.

“Once confined to fantasy and science fiction, time travel is now simply an engineering problem.”

Michio Kaku