By: Edward Kobeszka, Survalent Technology
For the past century electric utilities have developed arguably the most important infrastructure in the United States, the electric power grid. It cannot be argued that it’s proven to be an incredible system, servicing hundreds of millions of people and keeping our homes and business powered so successfully it’s almost taken for granted. However, as the grid evolves challenges are beginning to emerge. Utilities must stay ahead of these issues to sustain its standard and meet the high expectations their customers have relished for so long.
Modern Requirements for a Modern Grid
The electric power grid is not the same as it once was. It has become increasingly complex and is facing real issues.
- Demand exceeding power capacity
- Mandated increases in reliability requirements
- Introduction of distributed generation and other disruptive technologies
- An aging workforce and infrastructure
These economic, environmental, and technological drivers are causing utilities to modernize the way they monitor and operate the grid. The electric distribution system, specifically, is the target for optimization as there are key opportunities for improvement such as voltage reduction or automated circuit restoration.
Real-time data is becoming more critical to utilities and they’re not only challenged to gather it from the field but also manipulate and assess this data in order to address the issues we’re facing today. Utilities have adopted digital technology to tackle these issues. Among these software solutions, utilities have deployed a combination of SCADA, OMS, or DMS software platforms to optimize their distribution systems. SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is the software utilities use for real-time monitoring and control of their distribution system. OMS (Outage Management System) provides tools to manage field personal, engage consumers, and seeks to reduce outage time, improving reliability indices. DMS (Distribution Management System) is used analyze and optimize distribution network performance through automation and voltage or VAR reduction algorithms.
However, as the grid becomes more complex, so does managing all of these systems. There are utilities which have operators with up to ten workstations or consoles on a single desk. Their hands must dance from one keyboard to another, managing critical operations in a sea of diverse user interfaces. During storm conditions, it’s simply overwhelming to manage this workflow going from one software system to another. One must be able to acquire critical data and pass information across a utility: engineering teams, operations and field personal, and even to consumers. Additionally, there are more mediums to communicate data through such as SCADA, mobile applications, SMS, public web portals, and even social media. Being able to manage all of this data is becoming a daunting task.
The Advanced Distribution Management System
The ADMS (Advanced Distribution Management System) is the next level of software sophistication to accomplish these modern goals. ADMS is a single software platform inclusive of SCADA, OMS, and DMS. It has the functionality of DMS and OMS applications and utilizes the real-time data acquisition capabilities of SCADA to accentuate each system’s capabilities. All of this data is then visually represented and managed from a single, intuitive graphical user interface.
With the new generation of utility employees just around the corner, the expectation to become proficient and manage all of these systems (i.e. OMS, DMS, and SCADA) will naturally become complex. Furthermore, the responsibility of a distribution operator is already escalating. He/she is now required to manage distributed generation resources, decrease outage times, reduce feeder burden, and improve circuit performance and efficiency all at once. The best response to this complexity is simplicity. One integrated platform eliminates the need for a single employee being responsible for multiple software and servers and having to attend training to manage/troubleshoot all of them. A single ADMS simplifies operating tasks and eliminates the need to maintain and coordinate multiple operating models.
Interoperability is another important goal to bring comprehensive data into one platform. Industry standards such as MultiSpeak are important to transfer data such as AMI or GIS seamlessly from other systems. Vendors should be expected to integrate well with other systems through Multispeak or developed interfaces as well.
A quick use case will help illustrate the simplicity and efficiency of an ADMS system. If a pole was knocked over by a car, a DMS application like FDIR (Fault Detection Isolation Restoration), with the help of real-time SCADA information, would identify the fault location, isolate the location and restore power to as many consumers as possible. The OMS capabilities in the ADMS system will continue to locate the nearest truck to dispatch to the location. The ADMS can then proceed to create switching orders for the field personal to perform restorations. While ADMS is facilitating the outage, the system can concurrently engage consumers of the outage situation through the use of web portals or even Facebook or Twitter notifications.
The first step to solving any problem is to realize that there is one. The grid is no longer what it once was and whatever kept it going in the past will no longer work today. Complexity in the distribution network and requirements for higher reliability have unfortunately converged in a short time. As the grid rises in sophistication, so shall the technology that manages it, and ADMS will help us stay ahead of the curve. Up until now, electric power has been so successful it seems like magic to most people. Let’s not slip away from that standard. Let’s keep that magic going.