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Pike releases report on growth of substation automation technology

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, August 13, 2012

As the U.S. power grid continues to expand, its electrical substations - the crucial hubs that keep the entire grid connected - will become one of the most important aspects of grid modernization projects, according to a new report from Pike Research.

Substations are responsible for voltage conversion, power conditioning and security functions that are necessary for different types of transmission and distribution systems. Given their importance, substations are expected to be a major focus among utilities as they create a more intelligent grid, and substation automation has already shown to significantly improve operations.

According to the report, substation automation was around before the term smart grid was ever a part of the power industry vernacular. In its earliest phase, automation proved to help utilities lower or eliminate the need for staff who were tasked solely with monitoring substations, replacing them with simple remote monitoring and control. Fast forward to today, and substation automation is becoming one of the center points of successful end-to-end smart grid development.

The Pike report noted that the size, cost and complexity of substations varies significantly not only around the world but even across North America. Some substations are responsible for managing the power of whole cities, while others are part of an extended series of substations that deliver power to residential feeder circuits. Substations have also been designed according to the needs of certain regions.

This varying substation environment has in turn resulted in substation automation implementations, such as SCADA equipment, new communications technologies, protective relays and other intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), to also widely differ among regions.

But despite the challenges, new policies are helping utilities implement new smart grid technologies.

"Accelerating technology evolution and a drive toward a system standard such as IEC 61850 is making substation automation cost effective closer and closer to the edge of the grid," the report read.

SUBNET, which has extensive experience working with substation automation, has developed software and tools that allow utilities to install a single intelligent server that is capable of unifying all data collected by IEDs that have been installed on substations.

SUBNET Unified Substation Communications gives utilities the opportunity to perform data collections and protocol conversion from a wide range of IEDs, and allows them to replace legacy remote terminal units with the most up-to-date substation information server available. 

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