Protection & control personnel – Protecting the grid one element at a time…
People might be on either side of the infamous quote “it takes a village to raise a child.” In our case, it truly takes a team comprised of individuals, each with their own unique strengths, to successfully plan, design, install and commission a current-state protection & control system.
Utilities are rolling out technology that is ever more dependent on IT technologies in order to operate more efficiently and at a higher level of customer service. Most every IED installed within a substation fence now has an Ethernet port so the field personnel are now adapting to IP addressing schemes, understanding packet-based network fundamentals, firewall basics and even data-based structure that the IEC-61850 standard brings to the table—a far cry from the days of lugging around a three-phase phase shifting transformer, variacs, and load boxes with 500-foot spools of SIS-insulated switchboard wire.
RJ-45, BNC, ST, and other connector types that have been the bread-and-butter of IT-Telecom personnel around the world are now finding their way into the substation at an exponentially increasing rate. Yet, the basic protection & control schemes remain intact. Bus differentials, transformer differentials, step-distance, and current differential protection (and others) all still remain viable methods of protecting the power grid. Our Power Systems series of seminars cover these fundamental topics to support the need to understand protection & control basics so that new generations can successfully integrate new technologies with the old.
What questions might a P&C designer, engineer, or field test engineer/technician ask when it comes to how might the ever-increasing influence of IT/OT technologies, appliances, applications and cyber requirements? What questions might a new entrant into our industry have when it comes to protecting, controlling, and monitoring the power grid?
So far, current field and engineering teams have proven to be quite resilient, eager to learn and develop new skills that the modern power grid infrastructure is demanding of the engineering and commissioning folks. Now it’s up to managers and trainers to provide the proper training opportunities and learning culture to encourage the seemingly unstoppable movement of technology, at the same time ensuring a proper foundational knowledge is available so the P&C folks know how to keep the lights on and the grid safe and stable. Power Systems 102 supports that need by teaching protection and control fundamentals of generation, capacitor & reactor banks, underfrequency, DC systems and distribution protection, while still having a focus on the changing communications of the power industry.
I remember the steel mill days of the 1960’s and 1970’s in Pittsburgh when the mills began shutting down, leaving people needing to retrain or retire early. While we won’t be experiencing substations shutting down, it will require some retooling and retraining of sorts while the work of refurbishing our electric grid with new technologies goes on. This season is probably the most exciting time to be in the protection & control field, especially for those who love to learn and grow, and whether young or seasoned.
The protection & control field is now changing more rapidly than I can remember in the last 35 years. And to keep up with this continuous change, I encourage everyone to seek professional development opportunities. Aside from my current role at Power Grid Engineering, LLC (PGE) serving as Field Services Regional Manager in Florida, I also teach one of our seminars, Power Systems 102. PGE offers a series of courses, Power Systems 101 through 104, designed to help P&C engineers, designers, and field persons keep pace with both cornerstone understanding of how to protect ‘The Grid’. Emerging SCADA techniques, IT and OT communications systems, and other topics are also presented, which provides a path to stay current with emerging requirements. Our goal for each seminar is to establish a collaborative environment where we share real world examples and learn from each other’s experiences. Every day in class, we all leave with some new nugget of relevant information.
If you’re seeking training opportunities, I suggest you to visit our website https://www.powergridengineering.com/power-systems-training/ to explore our course curriculum and find a class of your interest.