Power utilities face big challenges these days. There’s relentless and increasing demand for more electricity, widely distributed and irregular energy generation with renewable sources, and periodic surges of energy consumption by electric vehicles.
To meet this demand, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) has partnered with power utilities in many parts of the world on establishing tests and systems that truly enable the smart grid to be a reality today.
One recent focus has been substation automation.
“One of the principal changes is the technological development of substation automation to improve smart grid performance and efficiency and to simplify substations,” noted a recent Alcatel-Lucent white paper, Transforming Critical Communications Networks for Substation Automation. “Substation automation calls for extensive real-time operational information exchange and alarm status monitoring by deploying next-generation IP- and Ethernet-based intelligent electronic devices (IED s).”
This starts with leveraging the new standard for substation automation, IEC (News - Alert) 61850. The IEC 61850 suite defines both the communications network architecture and communication protocols, and it helps ensure interoperability among vendors and added efficiency and consolidation in deployment.
As specified in the standard, there needs to be a two-track traffic process that defines delay-sensitive traffic that is needed for real-time processing, and critical but less time-sensitive traffic that can give way in the case of delay-sensitive traffic.
Inter-substation communications must also allow for network virtualization, redundancy protection, advanced traffic management, OAM) performance and fault management, security and synchronization.
Further, for the smart grid to properly leverage substation automation, Alcatel-Lucent has found that critical WAN infrastructures designed specifically for power utilities need well-defined specifications that that possess:
- A network topology and medium versatility
- Network virtualization and service flexibility
- Redundancy protection
- Traffic engineering
- Advanced traffic management
- OAM performance and fault management
The smart grid can happen today, but to handle this IP and Ethernet traffic, noted the Alcatel-Lucent white paper, “a new communications network infrastructure is required inside the substation and in the WAN connecting the substations and control center.”
In fact, the white paper provides a graphic on what a substation with WAN gateway router would look like.
Source (News - Alert): Alcatel-Lucent Transforming Critical Communications Networks for Substation Automation
Power utilities now have a network transformation roadmap and solutions that can make smart grid deployments more manageable, more versatile and secure. This is good news for all of us going forward as our electric service providers in the case grid failure will be able to be both proactive during times of service provision challenges and more responsive when there are substation outages.
We can all hope that a significant part of power utility infrastructure improvement budgets include upgrading not just the electrical grid but the communications networks that enable them to enhance operational efficiencies and effectiveness.
Edited by Peter Bernstein