Thursday, October 6, 2011

Incorporating IEC 61850 interoperability into Smart Grid systems

Guest post: Jeff Vaughan, ABB

There has been heightened interest in the IEC 61850 interoperability standard as a strategy in deploying smart grid systems. Those familiar with the standard realize that this is a comprehensive set of standards with the goal of providing better interoperability between a variety of IEDs (intelligent electronic devices). True interoperability promises great reductions in cost for designing, replicating, modifying, and implementing systems.

Many mistakenly refer to IEC61850 as a protocol. While protocol is an important element, the standard actually goes much deeper. When many people hear the word protocol, they see this as requiring a wholesale change out of existing communications networks and devices. This can become overwhelming when in fact there are options that allow implementation of IEC 61850 in increments. This allows users to obtain immediate benefits while building confidence.

A few examples include:

- 61850 GOOSE messaging may be used between IEDs to eliminate physical wiring and increase speed of interaction while continuing to use DNP to communicate upwards to SCADA and higher level systems where slower communications updates are acceptable. This opens new applications for end users because of the GOOSE high speed capability but does not necessitate a change in the SCADA communications infrastructure.

- Station Bus protocol (IEC 61850-8-1) can simplify the interface between IEDs, HMIs, etc. within the substation network while continuing to use a DNP interface to SCADA. Gateway devices are on the market which allow a combination of station bus compatible IEDs to coexist with legacy IEDs communicating via other protocols such as DNP or Modbus. The gateway can therefore provide the 61850 interface to other systems.

- As Process Bus (IEC 61850-9-2) devices become readily available, the opportunity to eliminate copper wiring between CTs and IEDs provides tremendous savings opportunities but could be done independently from Station Bus implementations.

The variety of 61850-based solutions and their benefits is becoming more apparent. Many technical papers now exist describing specific implementations of IEC 61850 based systems, while numerous consultants and users have set up IEC 61850 interoperability labs to determine what applications they will be implementing into production.

As the market is rapidly adapting this standard as a key element of their smart grid systems in order to begin achieving the benefits, those not embracing this will find themselves at a disadvantage.

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