APTP Articles

The Protection Testing Opportunity: Evolving into the Digital Age and Beyond

The future of protection testing is officially here. The era of electromechanical and microprocessor-based relay systems is finally giving way to digital protection schemes over Ethernet in substation networks.

Advancements in protection technology have drastically accelerated with the adoption of digital substations and Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs). The gradual move away from electromechanical relays combined with the advent of wind and solar generation and rising cybersecurity concerns, have added even more pressure for the industry to innovate and transform protection testing systems and practices.

While the basic philosophies between electromechanical, microprocessor, and digital testing technologies are similar, the applications, implementation, and capabilities of each group are vastly different. This creates challenges for utilities, that now work with relays at all three stages. 

Doble F8200

Overcoming skills and technology gaps

As fast as protection testing technology has developed, the pace of adoption hasn’t always kept up. For decades, the workforce had been trained solely on electromechanical technology and legacy testing routines, methods which are still commonly used despite the fact microprocessor-based technology came onto the scene over 20 years ago. As a result, utilities have been actively adopting a variety of different test sets and software to boost capabilities to test a wide range of conventional relays, but utilising multiple tools has proven to be a complex and costly strategy that increases errors, complicates troubleshooting, and generates data and results that are difficult to track. 

Utilities are best served with an adaptable technology foundation that enables them to embrace new digital testing technologies and also meet analog testing needs. In cases where the majority of commercial and utility power systems are still based on conventional relay protection, the workforce may be behind the curve when it comes to digital environments. Even in the new digital environment, analog testing and microprocessor technology still make up the majority of today’s substations and the traditional workforce is not yet skilled in network and digital typology. As the pressure to modernise increases, tools that can configure to the specific needs of each test site and bridge the knowledge and skills gap will become even more important. 

Enter the F8000: Designed to reduce the complexity 

Doble’s F8000 Power System Simulators take the complexity out of protection testing by offering a singular platform that eliminates the need to adopt several testing devices, adapts to any testing environment, and brings clarity to the test set up and network configuration process.

As protection testing evolves, the industry requires flexible solutions capable of evolving with industry technologies. With instrument chassis that come with several size options and can house modules for control, power, logical inputs and outputs (I/O) and digital streaming, organisations can configure their equipment to both analog and digital testing schemes.

By Scott Short - Doble Engineering Company