As utilities transition from time-based to predictive maintenance, substation data is a crucial part of assessing network health and effectively directing maintenance activities. IEC 61850 provides a range of features for acquiring and transmitting this data, and this is long been a cornerstone of the 61850 business case.

Although traditional substation automation systems do support data acquisition, this is generally achieved via the SCADA system. These systems collect data to monitor service performance and due to their criticality, data overheads must be minimised and only specific data streams can be captured and recorded. This obscures the full picture of asset health inside the substation and limits the decisiveness of maintenance activity.

IEC 61850 provides the possibility for utilities to bypass the SCADA system and monitor a wider range of data directly from IEDs. Many data sources which are not accessible with traditional methods, including round trip times, switching performance and component-level temperatures can be harnessed using 61850 equipment. This in turn will support a far wider range of use-cases and underpin utilities’ efforts to become truly data-driven businesses.

So why aren’t utilities around the world already doing this? Firstly, only more sophisticated implementations involving the IEC 61850 process bus can deliver the full range of component-level data that supports comprehensive condition-based maintenance. This is a challenge in and of itself, and most utilities are still in the process of adapting this technology to their business needs, with process bus implementations making up a relatively small proportion of global in-service IEC 61850 installations.

Secondly, the data must be collected and stored in a way that makes it accessible and usable by a variety of business functions for a wide range of use-cases. To realise this, enterprise systems such as data lakes must be put in place and 61850 must be integrated with data models such as CIM to structure data in an easily translatable way. Again, this is no easy task, and very few utilities across the globe would be able to comfortably say they’ve completed this journey.

Once achieved however, the business benefits are undeniably large and 61850 goes even further in offering new maintenance possibilities. If testing tools are permanently connected to the substation network, maintenance teams are able to remotely test IEDs and in certain cases, test specific functions without affecting the overall operation of the system. Needless to say, this is revolutionary for substation maintenance, significantly reducing travel times, chance of accidents and outage times as well as eliminating setup times and dependence on prevailing weather conditions.

Based on this, it is clear that the potential to revolutionize maintenance is perhaps the most significant of IEC 61850’s numerous purported benefits. What’s also clear, is that a great deal of groundwork must be laid before any of this is possible. Many of the biggest benefits rely on features that are only available in advanced process bus implementations, and enterprise-wide benefits can only be delivered with effective integration of data across business units. IEC 61850 experts and implementation leaders from across the globe will be gathering in London this October to tackle these challenges as well as many others, at the 6th annual IEC 61850 Global conference. Featuring utility case-studies and expert advice on a range of 61850 topics, this event has played a crucial role in fast-tracking 61850 implementations in smart grids around the world, bringing the innumerable business benefits of IEC 61850 closer to reality.

To find out more about the event, click here.

Revolutionizing Maintenance with Advanced IEC 61850 Features
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