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Home » Power Talk » Leveraging communication tech for enhanced substation performance

Leveraging communication tech for enhanced substation performance

June 26, 2023 1:19 pm

Leveraging communication tech for enhanced substation performance
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“Generation, transmission, and distribution are all interrelated, and technology can only assist in managing grid stability and resiliency”

When discussing the need for new technologies and communication infrastructure in substations for efficient electricity transmission and distribution, Satish Talmale, COO of IndiGrid, told EPR Magazine that adopting sophisticated technology is not a choice but a requirement.

What are the benefits of energy storage systems for power substations, and how can they be integrated effectively into the grid?

Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) offer various benefits to power substations based on their specific requirements. For auxiliary power supply, substations typically rely on DISCOM or DG sets. However, substations can efficiently meet their auxiliary power needs by integrating Solar + BESS. BESS can charge during non-peak hours and supply energy during peak hours, optimising power usage and reducing electricity bills.

Additionally, at distribution substations, BESS can help manage the overloading of distribution transformers (DT) by allowing incremental overloading for a set duration. This can extend the lifespan of DTs and eliminate the need for costly replacements when additional loads are added.

Furthermore, the integration of BESS with power substations is facilitated by their connection to DISCOMS at the distribution level. Depending on capacity, BESS can be connected at the same intake point and easily integrated with the net metering system.

What role do advanced sensors and monitoring systems play in next-generation power substations, and how can they optimise substation performance and reduce downtime?

Several compelling factors drive the adoption of advanced sensors and monitoring systems in the power sector:

Ageing Infrastructure: The Indian transmission sector, known as One Grid, One Nation, comprises a vast network of aged assets, including transmission lines, substations, control and protection systems, and load dispatch facilities. Outdated technology needs to improve to meet the growing electricity demand. To ensure the health of the existing infrastructure, advanced diagnostic tools, condition monitoring systems, and predictive maintenance techniques with intelligent computation are essential.

EHV Substations: EHV substations (above 220KV) house critical equipment like transformers, reactors, circuit breakers, and instrument transformers. Ensuring their safety, reliability, and availability is vital for utilities and the power grid. IoT solutions and smart sensors are now crucial in utilising data for informed decision-making and improving equipment health in substations.

Real-time Monitoring and Predictive Analytics: Real-time monitoring and predictive analytics using IoT-connected equipment provide accurate information on equipment health. Central monitoring teams guide field engineers using algorithms like Asset Health Index and Asset Performance Management, reducing downtime and preventing equipment failure through early diagnosis and AI/ML predictions.

What are the biggest challenges faced while developing and implementing next-generation power substations, and how can they be overcome?

With sound policy frameworks, many hurdles in power substation development have been overcome. However, new challenges have emerged. Acquiring substation land, especially in urban areas, poses difficulties due to rapid urbanisation and right-of-way issues. Renovating or retrofitting aged installations is necessary but needs to be improved by land availability and cost. Ageing transmission assets affect system performance, and providing a sustainable, 24×7 quality power supply is crucial. Managing power costs to stay competitive in the manufacturing sector is another concern.

The increased frequency of natural disasters has made transmission infrastructure vulnerable, and maintaining system availability and reliability is challenging with a geographically spread network. Integrating renewable energy sources introduces intermittency and variability issues, necessitating balancing reserves and grid stability measures. Securing transmission systems from cyber threats is also complex, with emerging dimensions of risk. Addressing these challenges requires significant investments and capabilities to ensure the secure and reliable functioning of the transmission sector.

How can advanced communication technologies, such as IoT and 5G, be used to optimise substation performance and improve grid resiliency?

The adoption of advanced communication technologies is not a matter of choice but a necessity. Dream of having stabled ONE NATION, ONE GRID only can be realised with advanced communication technologies like intelligent SCADA and PMU, Weather Forecasting and Predictive tools at the substation and LDC levels. At the substation level, IoT and sensors must be used to gather information for each piece of equipment and analysis to ensure their healthiness, performance and asset replacement plans. All three verticals of the power system, i.e. Generation, transmission and distribution, are interconnected, and technology will only help to manage grid stability and resiliency.

What new standards and regulations are emerging around next-generation power substations, and how are utilities adapting to meet these requirements?

With increasing sizes and complexity, there is also a need to revisit existing standards and practices and policy frameworks. Transmission is a regulated business, and the Government, through its various functions, has supported sectoral requirements with the best policies and standards. Due to new challenges in cyber security, standards related to the same have been developed, and support structure and capacity-building initiatives have been undertaken.

Integrating renewable energy into grids has led to completely changed scheduling and forecasting requirements and flexible operation of coal-based power generation. New GNA rules, schedule and dispatch standards, etc., are operationalised. 

The government has enabled policies and frameworks to support the development of a real-time and day-ahead power market. With the introduction of EV Mobility & BESS, many policy efforts are underway in the direction of technology selection, resource availability, capacity building and creating a sustainable manufacturing echo system.

What are the essential skills and expertise required to design, build, and operate next-generation power substations, and how can they be developed and trained?

The transmission sector is facing a significant challenge in terms of skill requirements. With the evolving technology landscape and the integration of renewable energy, the skill set needed to operate and manage the sector has undergone a complete transformation. Today’s engineers must be proficient in technology and possess electrical engineering, communication, and electronics knowledge. Understanding SCADA systems, remote operations, cybersecurity, weather prediction tools, and forecasting tools is crucial. Additionally, knowledge of power market dynamics, commercial aspects, regulations, and contracts is essential as the power sector moves towards an energy service business model. Recognising this gap, utility companies and government bodies are providing support through institutes, skill development centres, and offline and online training programs. Practising engineers are taking advantage of these resources alongside their regular job to enhance their skills. Active engagement in skill development efforts is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders in the sector.

How can utilities balance the need to invest in new technology and infrastructure with the pressure to maintain affordability for customers and stakeholders?

Transmission asset management organisations are currently grappling with a challenging situation. While there is an abundance of technology driven by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the availability of capital is limited. In a competitive environment where winning projects under the Tariff-Based Competitive Bidding (TBCB) regime is crucial, adopting new, costlier technologies becomes constrained. During the operations and maintenance (O&M) phase, constant pressure exists to manage costs, making investments in technology and infrastructure a significant challenge.

To address this situation, several key steps are necessary. Firstly, new technologies should be incorporated into standard bidding documents from the outset, allowing cost absorption. Standards should be developed to aid in selecting the right technologies in a supplier-agnostic manner.

OEMs must develop solutions that prioritise affordability, achieved through large-scale implementation and localisation tailored to local requirements. Introducing a scheme like Production Linked Incentive (PLI)-linked manufacturing can expedite this process, facilitating import substitution by Indian players. Additionally, Indian micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be given market visibility and preference in the selection, incentivising them to invest actively in a sustainable future. 

For more details, visit: https://www.indigrid.co.in/

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