10 Critical Features in a Decentralized Feeder Automation Solution

Smart grids and automated network solutions are the future of the power distribution and utility industry. 

With streamlined options for fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR) becoming more readily available on the market, it’s important to focus on the features that make up the right solution for your company’s needs.

 

1. Device Interoperability

A decentralized system must integrate seamlessly with existing controls such as substation relays, switch controls, and recloser controls. The system should support a standard communication protocol without the need for additional hardware or “black boxes.”

 

2. Integration with SCADA

Look for a feeder automation solution that is controller hardware agnostic and can mount onto any legacy system. The decentralized system should report the FLISR and restoration scheme status per feeder and real-time upstream/downstream restoration completions to your SCADA. This is key to avoiding the costs of an expensive overhaul of a SCADA system or other hardware and software already in use.

 

3. Rapid Deployment

As mentioned, a decentralized feeder automation system should not be dependent on a lot of hardware replacements or updates, and it should offer maximum interoperability, making a decentralized system very quick to deploy.

 

4. Plug and Play Setup

One major concern that stands in the way of implementing a new software is the time and financial expenses that come with extensive training of staff. Does the system offer a simple setup wizard type functionality, or does it require more laborious customization and coding?

 

5. Scalability

A decentralized feeder automation solution is only a good investment if it will last for years and grow alongside your company. Both small and large utilities may prefer a system that can be deployed in in limited areas initially, then added to in time. The ability to expand the network and build on additional applications is a value.

 

6. Key FLISR functionality

Of course, you will be looking for a feeder automation solution that’s self-healing to reduce outage durations through fully automatic fault location, isolation, and service restoration. The goal is to optimize power delivery through loss minimization, so integrated volt/VAR control is a pivotal feature.

 

7. Utility Grade Track Record

Technology for the real-world power distribution industry must be proven to make the grade. Look at any provider’s track record and history in the industry to assure the solution comes from a trusted provider.

 

8. Adaptability to real-time network topology

Things are always changing in the world of utilities and it’s essential that your feeder automation solution supports the ever-shifting topology of your network’s grid. What adjustments are required when a switch or breaker is added to the network? Since this is a common occurrence, updating the decentralized system should be very easy to implement. Ask for real-world examples of how a software adapts to changes in the service area topology.

 

9. Security

Strong security is mandatory in the utility industry, but features that can be vulnerable like remote access are also desirable. What security features are built into the decentralized system that are designed to keep unwanted hackers out?

 

10. Economical Costs

Unlike a centralized feeder automation system which is in effect a system-wide change, a decentralized system can be deployed incrementally for either strategic growth goals or budgetary issues. Likewise, a decentralized system should require minimal hardware costs, so the cost of entry into FLISR with a decentralized system should be much lower than a centralized system.

 

The ACS solution

ACS’s CENTRIX™ software is a decentralized feeder automation system that performs complex event processing logic outside of the centralized SCADA system, yet still logs and reports system operations and events back to the master system.

Built without the need for a GIS, CENTRIX™ provides utility companies with a simplified schematic that works with pre-existing network architecture, all at an affordable cost.

Compare and contrast advance distribution management systems options—read the white paper, Centralized and Distributed Intelligence Applications for Feeder Automation.

Founded in 1975, Advanced Control Systems™ (ACS) is a leading provider of advanced automation technology and products to the global electric power industry.