Until the requirement for storing, processing, and analysing data emerged, the power grid's format remained unchanged for over a century. The power was generated by fuel, transmitted geographically, and distributed to consumers through a distribution network. In recent years, the power grid has evolved, introducing equipment such as SCADA, HMIs, IEDs, RTUs and PLCs, bringing automation to once manned infrastructure. This enabled interconnectivity of remote locations, real time monitoring and control of the distribution network.
In the past few years, the necessity to transform the power grid has increased fourfold. A huge factor has been the increase in residential, commercial, green spaces, and most recently electric vehicles (EVs). The interconnection of once primarily isolated networks has pushed Distribution Network Operators (DNO) to face new challenges in substation automation.
Like residential properties, substations also need energy meters. A residential meter is typically used to power devices such as a fridge or kettle. Within a substation, industrial power meters must power much larger devices.
There are many applications for industrial power meters. A meter can be used, for instance, to measure the net energy of incoming and outgoing power from a solar application or within substations for pattern mapping and inter-branch billing. Meters continuously monitor the quality of the line and record usage over a specified period. This data can be captured and transmitted to SCADA for analysis.
In the past, serial equipment was used in these substations. These days, Ethernet equipment is more common. One of the biggest challenges is deciding whether to update existing equipment and the data network at the same time, which can be costly, or to update the data network only. Just replacing the data network can be viewed as a low-cost option, but it also reduces downtime and improves interoperability.
The use of devices with integrated serial (RS232/RS485), copper Ethernet, fiber, and 4G interfaces represents an opportunity to migrate the grid away from legacy infrastructure while keeping costs low. With this over-haul, you are only upgrading essential equipment on site, rather than the whole system. Mobile services such as 4G have expanded rapidly in the past decade with once remote locations now having high speed, low latency, and great uptime access.
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Carl de Bruin