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Article Date: 8th August 2016

ABB Power Grids - FITNESS Project to Create Digital Substation

FITNESS Project - Digital Substation - Fibre Optics - Wishaw Substation

ABB Power Grids - Diagram

Danny Lyonnette, Head of Business Development & Innovation for ABB Power Grids Automation & Control, outlines the FITNESS project that will see ABB and other vendors collaborating to demonstrate the first multi-vendor digital substation solution that replaces copper cabling with fibre optics.

ABB Power Grids, GE Grid Systems and SPEN (Scottish Power Energy Networks) are collaborating on the FITNESS (Future Intelligent Transmission Network Substation) project to deliver the UK’s first live digital substation monitoring, control and protection systems at the Wishaw 275 kilovolt (kV) substation in Scotland. The project, funded by Ofgem as part of the RIIO NIC (Network Innovation Competition) programme will show how digital communications over fibre can replace traditional copper connections to protect, monitor and control transmission networks. The benefits of this innovative approach will be reduced substation project cost, risk and environmental impact as well as increased flexibility, controllability and availability.

The FITNESS project will be running for four years from April 2016 with the aim to demonstrate a fully integrated multi-vendor digital substation solution both for retrofit and new build projects. The main driver is that substation control and protection requirements need to change significantly as low carbon generation and HVDC (high voltage direct current) interconnections increase, and these changes present new challenges for traditional network control and protection functions. In addition, conventional substations allow little flexibility to adopt the necessary new monitoring, protection and control functions - especially where these are to be linked with external measurements and information systems such as WAMS (wide area monitoring systems).

Wishaw substation
The project will equip two bays of the existing Wishaw 275 kV substation with new fully integrated digital controls. The site has been selected as it is in an area of special interest with a large wind power infeed that presents challenges in terms of variability and inertia. The digital systems will be run in parallel with more conventional technology for a trial period and will then be operated independently. The project will also trial new sensor technologies for voltage and current measurements. The substation will be designed with digital communications using fibre optic cables – instead of analogue signals using copper cables – from switchyard to control building. Both ABB Power Grids and GE Grid Systems are supplying IEDs (Intelligent Electronic Devices) for the project with the specific objective of ensuring that the equipment is interoperable within a multi-vendor solution.

Projections show a 10 percent saving in substation costs
This ground breaking UK project will demonstrate how digitising communications within a substation can increase controllability, reduce environmental impact and improve substation safety while enabling faster deployment where network improvements are needed. Projections indicate the possibility for 10 percent saving in overall substation costs while the footprint can be reduced by around 15 percent when digital technology is adopted as the UK norm.

Providing confidence in the digital approach
The industry has already seen a widespread adoption of IEC 61850, the standard that denes substation communication protocols and the need for interoperability of systems. But there has so far been a slow uptake in the associated standard 9-2, which under- pins the true digital substation, since it requires a significantly different approach to substation architecture, design and construction. One of the main reasons for this is uncertainty over the technical maturity, performance, reliability and robustness of the equipment, especially because there is limited experience within the industry of demonstrating how a full IEC 61850 digital substation will work. The key benefit from FITNESS is in providing the industry with confidence in the new systems.

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