Electrical substations are the building blocks of an energy grid, responsible for regulating and changing voltage levels as electric power flows from generating station to consumer. But many were built decades ago when switching, adjustment, and data collection were done manually.
As renewable energy sources make the process of power generation more distributed, Intel is working with utilities worldwide to digitize substations, with the ultimate goal of providing energy more reliably and efficiently.
Smart substations have built-in control and automation capabilities but can also receive commands from remote users. This dual ability reduces the possibility of communication failures and the impact of power outages and can reduce development and maintenance costs.
The modern smart grid benefits from advances in built-in communication technology. More and more substations are able to utilize fiber optic‒based communications. Utilities are also implementing IP wireless network solutions to communicate with automated substations, allowing them to keep track of equipment condition and apply preventive maintenance.
With the rise of smart grids, Intel® architecture-based smart grid solutions are helping utilities worldwide take substation automation to new levels. This goes beyond the traditional supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA). Today, multiple intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) communicate with each other and supervisory control centers through standardized protocols. This data needs to be unified, secured, and ultimately transformed into easily accessible information. And the software must be easy to upgrade, so utility companies can continue using their existing IEDs as they scale.
Utilities and other energy customers are increasingly interested in smart grid technology. And by educating regulators and policymakers, Intel is playing an important consulting role in the process of modernizing and digitizing aging grid infrastructure. The results: increased system efficiencies and capabilities, reduced costs, and increased customer satisfaction.
By educating regulators and policymakers, Intel is playing an important consulting role in the process of modernizing and digitizing aging grid infrastructure.
Power System Automation
The process of automating power systems starts with the acquisition of data, including the status of contact points (open or closed) and current or voltage values. Traditionally, human operators and field personnel monitor this data either in the field, at the device itself, or remotely. More recently, IEDs like microprocessor-based relays have begun to offer more flexibility and functionality, whether it’s identifying electrical faults in the electrical network or providing low-cost monitoring analysis.
Substation Automation Systems
Substation automation plays a critical role within Intel’s broader plan for grid modernization. Digitalization makes it possible to aggregate data from otherwise disconnected applications, unleashing the value of the data and deploying the next generation of machine learning technologies. Applications are in development to transition the advanced distribution management systems (ADMS) currently running in data centers to edge ADMS, as more and more data becomes available and technologies push further to the edge.
Substation controllers are communications processors that incorporate multiple I&C device functions into one IED. In the past decade, computational capacity has grown dramatically, making advanced monitoring, diagnostic, and protection functionality possible.
Software solutions based on Intel® IoT technology, integrated with IoT gateway controllers and robust embedded controllers, provide essential insights into energy usage patterns and identify areas where grid performance and manageability can be optimized.
Remote Terminal Units
To link objects in the physical world with automation systems, either distributed control systems or SCADA, remote terminal units (RTUs) come into play. These microprocessor-controlled electronic devices relay telemetry data to a master system and using messages from that system to control the physical state of connected objects.
Smart batteries are one of the most important pieces of new infrastructure in smart substations. Installed in specific locations along feeders, they use AI to calculate energy flow depending on the moment-to-moment needs of the grid. When renewable energy supplies are high—on sunny or windy days, for example—the batteries store power. At other times they shift load back to the grid, slowly discharging to keep the grid stable.
Intel® Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs)
Intel® FPGAs play a key role in automating smart grids and integrating renewable energy sources like solar inverters. These devices can help customers increase performance and scalability in part because of their capacity for in-the-field customization. Even after they’ve been installed, their electrical functionality can be changed. As a result, clients can meet evolving design standards for grid communications, security, and other critical functions.
Smart substations are an integral part of Intel and the energy industry’s vision for the evolution of the smart electrical grid. Modernizing these essential building blocks will make it possible to integrate renewables and other advanced power development options into the existing system, making it more sustainable and cost-effective. These varied technology solutions will help meet the challenge of delivering increased energy capacity to an expanding global community.