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3 Communications Takeaways from DistribuTech 2018

by Tom McKinney | Jan 30, 2018
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This year's DistribuTech was the largest to date, filled with exhibitors and attendees talking about the latest topics in regard to communications. One of the hottest topics was Remote Management of Distributed Assets. Utilities are continuing to connect more of their gear, allowing them to lower production costs, optimize personal, and increase QOS for end customers. Read through some of the best case studies that were presented this year on remote management!

 

1. Voltage Reduction Pilot shows an ROI of just 1 year

The team at Santee Cooper, in conjunction with Schneider Electric, rolled out a voltage reduction pilot project in 2017. The system used a Mini SCADA application to manager the CVR application and included 4 feeders, 12 regulators, 7 capacitor banks and 10 end of line meters.

A wireless mesh network was used to collect data from the end of line meters and return them to the higher application. The solution was successful and proved that it could recover the $4M investment in roughly one year based on the power production savings alone.

One challenge on the project was communications connectivity. A separate network had to be installed for the pilot and that network will be upgraded for bi-direction communications for capacitor bank integration. Cellular gateways could be used to provide control access to electrical equipment and end of line voltage monitors.

This would allow for faster measurement response times, leveraging the high-speed data network. Lower cost M2M plans allow cellular gateways to be connected for just a few dollars a month.

 

2. Pennsylvania Power & Light manages Outage Restoration with Automation

Continuing their digital transformation PP&L showcased their electric utility automation. Today they have over 1200 feeders fully automated. Working with GE, PP&L is now introducing automation to their network, leveraging control applications to make decisions once reserved for human operators.

G&W Viper reclosers are now installed on 1200 feeders. Rather than have the recloser automatically reset locally, the reclosers are managed by SCADA. The GE applications walk through the same outage restoration process as an operator. The systems were tested in a advisory mode for a year before being activated.

As operators are becoming more familiar with the system, they are extending its functionality. Improvements include integration of the manual device into the system for a higher level of visibility into possible options for resolving an outage.

Fault halo information is now being leveraged by the field service person to help located faults. PP&L maintains 50,000 miles of power line and nearly 1 million poles. Communications back-haul leverages multiple technologies including two cellular providers, microwave and RF solutions.

 

3. Arizona Public Service, Remote Control of Residential Solar Inverts

Utilities continue to deal with the challenge of integrating residential power generation in a cost-effective way. APS executed a pilot study to test SMA smart inverters with UL1741-SA support. The goal was to determine what insights could be gained by having control of the inverter remotely.

More specifically they wanted to determine if active management of the inverter could be used to improve the efficiency of the system. The APS system contained 1GW of solar generation, 50% of which is residential. Solar represented 15% of APS’s peak power generation capacity.

The study included 1600 solar deployments across 28 feeders. Data was collected from the smart inverters every 5 minutes. Cellular backhaul, as well as L&G Mesh technology were used to collect the inverter data using Modbus to DNP3 conversion. The L&G Mesh system was AMI and care had to be taken not to impact the billing system.

The visibility into the system was beneficial with regards to situational awareness and the lessons learned will be used to define how future solar PV systems are connected to the SCADA system. More work will need to be done to improve the ROI, low-cost communications will be key to enabling broader deployments.

 

See what other IIoT shows HMS Industrial Networks will be attending and contact us with any IIoT questions!

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