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Substation automation's importance to smart grid development

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, January 07, 2013

The term smart grid has grown to encompass a wide range of technologies, procedures, software and hardware, but one of the most critical advancements that has been made could be one the public hasn't even heard about - substation automation.

According to Renew Grid Magazine, the general populous most often associates the term smart grid with smart meters. However, technologies that have been developed to improve power delivery - a side of the industry consumers rarely hear about - has the potential to revolutionize the way utilities manage their networks. These innovations include substation automation, power electronics and data management, which will work together with power distribution systems in a new period of IT/OT convergence.

A recent report from Pike Research shows that substations are crucial for any utility operators, and their responsibilities are growing in both numbers and uniqueness. Substations are used to transform voltage several times in many locations, ensuring safe and reliable delivery of power. These systems are also necessary for splitting the path of electricity flow into many directions, which can be used to isolate parts of the grid to make repairs or manage energy for various reasons.

With substations home to some a utility's most important functions, it's no wonder any major breakthrough in substation technology is seen as one of the foremost aspects of the smart grid revolution. Substations require a huge amount of large, expensive equipment to operate, including transformers, circuit breakers, switches, capacitor banks, a network of protective relays and several others.

All of this equipment must be kept safe from a wide range of dangers, such as fault current surges, weather problems or other equipment failure, the media outlet stated.

All over the country, substation modernization projects have already begun. In the Northeast, Central Maine Power Company (CMP) recently announced it had activated its first major substation that is a part of its $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program.

According to Fierce Smartgrid, the project is the largest upgrade the utility has made in more than 40 years. As part of project, the utility will build four new substations featuring 245 kilovolt autotransformers, one 345 kilovolt switchyard and upgrades to almost 40 current substations.

The company's $57 million Larrabee Road Substation will be its first bulk power facility to meet International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61850 standards for protection and control technology. This standard will be integrated with existing system controls, which will enable automation and predictive maintenance.

SUBNET's software helps utilities optimize their substation automation rollouts, driving up operational efficiency. 

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