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Utilities learn about industrial substations and advanced power flows

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, November 12, 2012

A recent webcast put on by Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine highlighted recent advancements in industrial substation and two-way power flows, while also giving engineers an opportunity to learn about new standards for substation design, Intelligent Utility reports.

According to the media outlet, the webcast, titled "What's New in Electrical Engineering: Smart Grid and Transformers," was saturated with news on the development of solid state transformers and how new substations will be able to handle bi-directional power, and leverage existing transformer technology to achieve grid modernization.

Sam Sciacca, president of SCS Consulting, stated that one of the most relevant issues for utilities will be accounting for multi-directional power flow as more municipalities install intermittent power sources - such as wind or solar - onto the electric grid.

"Smart grid, in many regards, doesn't involve a lot of technology that hasn't been in play for many years," Sciacca said. "What's different is the communications element, the information sharing. Smart grid really is a 'system of systems,' which coordinates the flow of information going back and forth for better visualization, data management, simulation and control, with an overriding concern for cyber security."

Sciacca added that utilities must consider the differences between a transformer that will put power back into the grid and a traditional load transformer that only sends power in one direction.

The communication platforms through which smart grid data will be sent will be another major issue, Sciacca added, and although several new elements are already in place, more investment will need to be made in communications to ensure grid reliability and security.

"Cyber security is a growing concern," Sciacca continued. "It began at a high level with the Federal Energy Reliability Commission (FERC), but the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) picked up the mantle with its Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) requirements."

According to the media outlet, these NERC CIP requirements include more than just protection from intentional attacks, but also defend against unintentional acts that can have devastating consequences. This may include loading incorrect software or changing configurations without the proper management.

"In the past these issues have proven more pressing than external threats and will continue to be a focus of NERC CIP requirements," Sciacca said.

SUBNET's products, which help utilities gather, manage and analyze huge amounts of smart grid data, also ensure that all infrastructure adheres to these NERC CIP regulations. If these rules are violated, fines of up to $1 million can be imposed for every day the violation goes unfixed. 

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