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New smart grid installations call for improved skills

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The sheer number of smart grid installations going on all over the country has created a need for system engineering skills, and the entire smart grid rollout program has been likened to the investment in - and the skills that were needed for - the U.S. space program.

According to Electric Light and Power, the investments made in improving the nation's aging infrastructure should have the same weight as those that were made in the 1960s when the government decided to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. If utilities take a system engineering approach to building a better grid, and also use system engineering integration methods, they can maintain strong scalability, security and even leverage future data mining abilities.

This includes the way utilities design their substation automation schemes, which are typically designed to support communication functions with local-area networks (LAN), promote remote monitoring capabilities and improve control through SCADA systems. Utilities can accomplish this by deploying thousands of intelligent electronic devices across their entire enterprise, as these IEDs play a major role in the life cycle asset management of grid infrastructure if they have been updated.

For example, the media outlet states, a utility can use IEDs to detect which transformers are most likely to fail for any reason, and use them to spot potential problems with circuit breakers and other equipment installed in substations. The benefits of this are huge when applied to legacy equipment located in an important area of a utility's network, or where failure would be most costly.

Software can be used alongside IEDs to collect the huge amounts of data that are derived from these devices, and leverage this information to improve operating processes. The data can lead to in-depth analysis that warns controllers about unpredictable and potentially harmful events or operating conditions.

"By integrating the appropriate information with the utility's SCADA system and smart grid data repository, the utility can gain the most value from deploying these new IEDs inside its substation," wrote Tom Helmer and James Osbourne of engineering consulting firm Black & Veatch.

SUBNET specializes in helping utilities efficiently install substation automation and the accompanying software that helps them operate at the utmost efficiency. SUBNET's vendor agnostic approach allows utilities to collect data from any device over any operating platform, and analyze it on any business IT system.

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