Ease of use key to replace old substation RTUs


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Support challenges associated with aging and remote peripheral units (RTUs), along with built-in cybersecurity and expanded functionality in modern RTU designs, are accelerating utilities’ efforts to replace legacy hardware. The increasing critical role of the RTU substation, particularly in bulk substations and transfer stations, underlines the importance of ease of use, high performance, interoperability and scalability. The experience of a major American utility in upgrading their old RTUs is described in this article. “When we started looking to replace our RTUs, our older plants had been in use for more than 20 years,” an engineer at a major utility company in the southwestern United States reports. “Because of all that was involved in replacing our RTUs, we were reluctant to start looking for an alternative system but when the vendor stopped working on the type of platform we were using, we had to make a change and it became a real opportunity to consider our long-term needs,” says the engineer. The main tool started the search for an RTU replacement by issuing a Request for Information (RFI), followed by a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the top five vendors that most matched their requirements. “Ease of use” was highly weighted. For this tool, ease of use meant five things: 1) how easily new RTUs can be configured to meet specific facility needs, 2) ease of installation and integration with existing hardware and systems, 3) how easy field engineering and support personnel can be trained, 4) quality of supporting documentation, 5) how easy it is to maintain the system, the engineer said. : “In an RTU replacement project, you not only replace the terminals but affect everything around them as well.” “It’s the RTU, the chassis components, the power supply, the I/O ports, and the cables. You have to know all that, so there is a lot of training required for a project of this scale.” As a result, ease of use and training were key factors in choosing vendors in general. Due to the complexity of the legacy platform (due to the number of connections and amount of hardware, as well as the nuances of building logic and software), the tool was concerned that it would require extensive training for any new engineer or designer. They didn’t want to risk making team members unprepared because they were overwhelmed by a new system. According to the engineer, “Historically, it could take a new technician or engineer from two to two years to Three years to learn the platform well enough to go out to the site on their own. Since we had a six-month rotating engineering program, we really needed the ability to effectively and quickly train our team in setting up and configuring the RTU with all the necessary documentation and customer support for future success. As this tool has a large fleet of RTUs, its ease of maintenance, particularly its software and firmware, is also highly rated. “Live firmware updates and security patches for new vulnerabilities and feature upgrades to the system are also highly rated,” the engineer said. Direct is very important, but it can be cumbersome to implement.” As a result, the tool reviewed each vendor’s firmware history as part of their RTU evaluation process to gauge what they could expect in the future. The form factor also played a role in the overall usability rating. Older substations are being built with the ability to expand in the future.Older old RTUs are also heavily plugged in, sometimes requiring half to a full day in transit time.Everyone is trying to find a similar form factor to what they already have,”the engineer said. is that what you’re switching into probably won’t need as many wires as your old RTUs. What is desirable is to be able to plug and play as much as possible so you can reduce the amount of time out for new RTUs. Our goal was to restart operations as quickly as possible.” Choosing a Replacement RTU System Among the five vendors involved in the RFP and evaluation process, the tool selected NovaTech OrionLX automation system for the RTU and HMI replacement portion of the RFP. Prior to the upgrade, the legacy configuration included the facilities A dedicated HMI interface at each transmission and distribution substation.While the alarm pages made it easy for technicians to learn about events in real time, the alarm graphics software was cumbersome to edit and build new pages.Moreover, the legacy HMI used a database separate from the RTU data, which increased the overall configuration effort. A better design was needed.” One of the features we love about the OrionLX RTU is the ability to build a page in minutes and then test the page and have it up and running very quickly – usually within an hour. “Even our most experienced engineers were very impressed,” the engineer said. NovaTech OrionLX-based RTU configuration, including system I/O, alarm tile announcer, math and logic procedures, and IED data access, is performed by NovaTech Configuration Director, (NCD), a license-free tool used in Orion renderers. Fashion. NCD eliminates most of the configuration efforts by providing pre-made checklists for more than 250 commonly used intelligent electronic devices (IEDs). The Orion platform also addresses the need for future operational facilities and scalability, which is offered in a range of models for top pole applications, distribution substation applications, and transmission substation applications. All models are supplied with identical firmware and equipped with the same NCD tool. Moving to a larger or smaller platform is a matter of moving the configuration and editing some hardware-specific parameters. In addition, new protocols (such as IEC 61850, ICCP, etc.) and software options (e-mail, IEC 61131, etc.) are standard, and can be easily added, in many cases without the need for a firmware upgrade. Doing it right The challenging tasks of maintaining reliable data flow between the RTU system and the utility organization are now complicated by aging and aging infrastructure. “Planning for our future energy needs by replacing legacy RTU systems in our facilities enables us to continue to play our role,” the engineer said. .


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