Electronic Products & Technology


IEEE Conference addresses the smarts in the smart grid

The IEEE 2011 Power Systems Conference & Expo (www.pscexpo.com) held this spring in Phoenix, AZ, brought industry experts together to pursue greater efficiency in the distribution of electrical power.

Click image to watch: Manfred Kwan of ASAT Solutions explains his smart grip Digital Automation Platform.

Kicking off the plenary session, Stig Nilsson, a principal engineer in the Electrical and Semiconductors Practice of the engineering and scientific consultancy Exponent (www.exponent.com) gave a history lesson on Flexible AC Transmission System technologies or FACTS, a technique for increasing the usable capacity of existing transmission systems. "Power electronics for flexible ac transmission systems is actually the smart grid for transmission," he said.

Since FACTS was the topic of the plenary session, Nilsson wasn’t alone in this viewpoint. According to Dr. Ram Adapa, technical leader, Transmission and Substation Area of Power Delivery and Utilization Sector at Electrical Power Research Institute (www.epri.com), future smart grid needs include not only smart meters but also smart transmission and distribution technologies. "FACTS is the key component of smart transmission, of smart grid," said Adapa.
While smart grid has many definitions, even within the power distribution industry, all the smart grid definitions point toward sensors, two-way communications, intelligence and response he insists. The companies in the exhibit area did their best to support his assertion.

Held days after the tragic earthquakes in Japan that devastated three of the six units at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, it’s not surprising that earthquakes were among the offline discussion topics. One company, W. E. Gurdy & Associates (www.wegai.com), which has seismic qualification experts for electrical distribution and transmission equipment and support structures, was among the exhibitors.

According to Travis Soppe, an associate engineer at WEGAI, the company’s seismic analysis of equipment includes finite element modeling and shake table testing. The testing is frequently performed on components that cannot easily be modeled with electrical characteristics. "You really have to shake it to make sure that component will work during and after an earthquake," said Soppe.

While the exhibit area was relatively small with less than 60 exhibitors, a dozen Canadian companies were among those with products and services specifically aimed at helping power generation and transmission companies. One of the Canadian companies was ASAT Solutions, Inc. based in Calgary (www.asatsolutions.com). The company specializes in substation Intelligent Electronic Device (IED) and data integration.

Manfred Kwan, president & CEO (top) says that in an ideal smart grid, all substations are "smart" with data and information readily available for utility users. For substation data management, ASAT has Digital Automation Platform (DAP) products that include its DAPserver, a substation data management server that enables legacy IED integration and the DAPmini server, a substation data management unit developed for enhancing and upgrading D20 RTUs.

Click image to watch: Paul Richardson of OZ Optics details distributed sensors for power monitoring.

OZ Optics of Ottawa (www.ozoptic.com) makes distributed sensors that measure strain and temperature in standard telecom fiber for power distribution and monitoring. "We are able to measure the strain and the temperature of the fibre every 5 to 10 cm for up to 100 km of fibre," said Paul Richardson, product manager, Sensors for OZ Optics.

One of the applications in power lines is monitoring for corrosion. "If corrosion occurs, you get a localized heating event and the instrument can detect it up to 100 km away," explained Richardson (left). Users can also monitor for lightening strikes or even if someone tries to steal the power line. Since fibre optics are inert to the electromagnetic field and avoid shock and explosion risks, the sensors are also used for monitoring in power manufacturing or production applications.

Click image to watch: Mark Peterson of ERLPhase describes transmission level protective relays and fault recorders.

ERLPhase Power Technologies of Winnipeg (www.erlphase.com) manufactures transmission level protective relays and fault recorders. The company has just begun manufacturing of distribution feeder relays. "One of the things about our protective relays is that they were designed with the utility in mind," noted Mark Peterson (right), senior sales engineer for ERLPhase. This makes configuring the relays in the application much easier according to Peterson. The S-PRO 4000 digital, microprocessor-based sub-harmonic protection system allows operators to quickly identify the cause of system events.

The company’s Tesla 4000 Power System Recorder (below) has advanced Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) and Continuous Disturbance Recording (CDR) capabilities and meets North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s (www.nerc.com) continuous disturbance recording standards.