National Grid continues to work on deploying new technologies on the transmission system, Rudy Wynter, president, FERC Regulated Businesses, National Grid, said on Feb. 9.
Wynter spoke with TransmissionHub after participating on the “Utility of the Future: Is transmission more important than ever?” session, part of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid’s National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit that is being held in Washington, D.C.
He noted that National Grid put a team together “to look at what are the new and market-ready products that are out there – technologies that are out there that we could deploy on the transmission system that [are] in the best interest of the customers, meaning, that allowed us to get more power through the lines, or respond faster.”
The team found that “things fall into basically three themes,” with one theme involving the question of “how do we use digital technology, better communications protocols, [and] better monitoring to get real-time data about the networks so we can plan our maintenance better and optimize the network better,” he said.
In so doing, National Grid looked at a standard for substation design called IEC 61850, which, as noted in a Feb. 1 Siemens statement, standardizes the method of communication and integration of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) within a substation, enabling IEDs from different manufacturers to exchange the digital information with each other.
National Grid has selected Siemens to provide technology to help deploy the IEC 61850 digital design standards for its bulk transmission substations, according to the statement.
Siemens’ grid automation software and hardware technology will enable National Grid’s substation automation systems to communicate with one another via a fiber optic network rather than miles of copper cable, which allows for a reduction in the size of the substation footprint, according to the statement. That can be a significant benefit when new construction is required in densely populated areas, the statement noted, adding that the digital substation technology is based on standardized design, allowing National Grid to increase safety and reduce cost, while improving flexibility and availability.
“[W]e’re going to be doing all of our new substations utilizing that technology,” Wynter said. “What that essentially is, is it’s a new communications protocol that’s used on the substation, and it reduces the amount of wiring because you’re using fiber optics now. It reduces the size of the substation, but it also allows the substation to communicate with different electronic components of the substation much more effectively, and allows us to control the substation much more effectively as well.”
One of the things that National Grid is doing now – with Siemens – is looking at whether there is a subset of the company’s 432 transmission substations that are located in the United States “that we want to accelerate and move to this standard earlier.”
But, he said, that is part of a bigger plan revolving the questions of, how does National Grid put monitoring devices on the transmission network, and once the data is being monitored, “how do we then utilize a data analytics platform to help us make sense of all of that data to say, are our maintenance plans targeting the right places? Are we doing things too early [or] are we doing things too late?”
He continued, “So, it’s all around using that digital transformation at the substation out on the transmission network to help us optimize the network better.”