By Jonathan Gray | Original Article
You’ve heard it said: “defense wins championships”. Yet every year we see franchises invest in a few select positions without a complementary emphasis on supporting roles. We know offense and defense don’t actually stand on their own — and the most complete teams maximize performance and mitigate weaknesses. The same can be said for managing power systems. Historically, protection, control and automation have been managed in silos rather than as a cohesive ecosystem.
In today’s connected environment, however, you can’t build a winning power system with a siloed approach. Protection, control and automation must be integrated to form a comprehensive system that delivers optimal situational awareness and uncompromising reliability and performance.
We see this shift especially when modernizing legacy power systems; rather than a simplistic product-centric approach, engineers and consultants must focus on the overall ecosystem taking advantage of the connected benefits of modern technology platforms.
Build winning systems
A systems approach to upgrading and modernizing power starts by creating an overall vision for the power system architecture. One-for-one upgrades and replacements miss opportunities to leverage technology to improve system performance and situational awareness, while reducing operational and safety risks.
Modernizing in a holistic manner requires assessing the entire system — what devices you have, what data is available, and which other applications will interface with the network. This approach ensures the system will operate properly across all devices and modes.
Impacts to power system testing should also be considered. Instead of taking a device focused approach, integrated system testing, functional performance testing, and commissioning are more important than ever. As the system ages and replacements are made, facility owners should consider how to recommission from a systems perspective to ensure that the main power path, controls, monitoring and protection systems are functioning to deliver the overall level of reliability and interoperability required by the system design. Again, the idea is not just to focus on a single product or device but instead how the integrated and connected devices function as part of the overall system architecture.
Many power systems are now built around connected intelligent electronic devices that should be maintained in the same way information systems are. Maintenance should include active configuration management that addresses firmware and software upgrades, patches, etc. An emphasis on configuration management is relatively new to the power systems space, but critical to how we maintain intelligent switchgear leveraging IoT.
Design of these systems requires a collaborative approach to develop an overall system architecture and design intent with technology providers creating alignment with platform specific solutions. Integrated protection, control, and automation technologies require an integrated approach to design; the old organizational stove-pipes are no longer appropriate. Collaboration throughout the project life-cycle (design, manufacturing, construction, commissioning, operation & maintenance, modernization) is the key to delivering results.
You’ve probably also heard it said, “none of us are better than all of us”, so it’s important that the systems we create function in much the same way.