Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Crucial Lessons learned from a MV Substation Project at a Huge Power Plant

Recently I discussed the issue of interoperability of IEDs in the context of a crucial non-interoperability problem of two vendors’ IEDs. Click here for the discussion.

Now, three months later, the utility has decided to replace two protection IEDs in summer 2013 in order to get fully interoperable IEDs for the power plant control system.

The whole process of discussing back and forth over a period of nine (9!) months has frustrated many engineers and other people involved in the project. We had meetings with almost 20 people from several companies involved – could you believe it?

The utility (power plant operator) finally ordered a one day training on IEC 61850 to get a much better understanding what the (relatively small) issue was all about and to get an overview about IEC 61850.

The crucial lessons learned by the utility engineers are:

  1. If you want to use IEC 61850 in your plant, specify to some extent what you want to get delivered.
  2. When you get the offer from vendors, check in detail what they offer.
  3. Once you have almost selected one or more vendors, make sure that all IEDs that have to speak IEC 61850 are interoperability tested one way or the other.
  4. Once you have signed the contract with one or more vendors, organize interoperability tests in a lab in due time prior to the commissioning process on site.

Note that conformance testing is required – but not sufficient!!

Utilities must take a firm position in favor of a genuine open international standard in the energy market, leaving behind once and for all the outmoded notion of great champions of vendors with many proprietary bells and whistles.

In case utility management and engineers involved in a project follow these recommendations it is likely that the problems that may occur on site later on will be tremendously minimized.

The utility I was involved with told me, that they will contract with me again, as soon as they have to build another MV substation in a power plant using IEC 61850 IEDs.

Good luck!

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