Protection and Control System Impacts from the Digital World – Part 1 of 2

2016-11-07 - Electric Energy Online Magazine article by Stefan Meier and Steven Kunsman of ABB - November 2016
Gone are the days of the simple electro-mechanical relay without firmware and communication interfaces. The fact exists that protection and control systems have changed significantly in the past decade and will continue to change with technology advancements. The digital world has impacted the protection system from the introduction of microprocessor based relays in the 1980s to protection relays with communication interfaces in the 1990s. Today’s advanced digital protective relays utilize high speed communication to replace copper wires for inter-bay control, safety interlocking and even breaker trip and closing. Modern sensor technology also allows for the digitization and analog acquisition in the switchyard replacing hazardous inductive CT and PT circuits with process bus communications.

The Digital World has brought many benefits but also introduces challenges. This paper will focus on the impact of the protection and control system as a result of microprocessor relay introduction in the 1990s. It will discuss key issues the protection and control engineer has encountered in the past and will face with the deployment of the advanced protective relay. Key areas discussed will be performance and benefits including the digitization and transfer function of Nonconventional Instrument Transformers, security threats and best practices for the protection system, fleet management in the age of NERC PRC/CIP regulations and performance consideration to achieve high availability of the protection and control system. As well the paper will address some protection issues such as; since fiber optic current sensor systems have no iron, and no CT saturation, the differential relay need not have multiple slopes to account for CT performance, just a minimum pick up thus increasing the sensitivity several fold.

The educational benefits to understanding these impacts is paramount in the adoption and embracing of modern monitoring and control systems. Understanding the requirements to improve the performance of the substation automation protection and control systems is the goal to create the informed decision maker embracing these advancements in new technology which from a reliability perspective can greatly improve the overall power system performance.

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