In my 26 years with Tractebel Engineering my speciality has always been SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems for HV and MV substations. SCADA being a system that remotely monitors and acquires information from a dispersed system or process – in our case, electrical substations.
Has the technology evolved greatly?
SCADA’s core function is communication. As this has evolved, so has SCADA; older versions relied on wiring to introduce data to a central point; modern versions have a distributed system with fibre optic connections. This is important as electrical system monitoring and data reporting requires very short time delays. Today’s SCADA are fully composed, sophisticated systems that rapidly transfer high-integrity information to a Human Machine Interface (HMI) – a screen graphically representing the actual state of all monitored elements. SCADA suppliers also originally created their own communication protocols. Today (driven by the International Electrotechnical Commission) most have agreed on one global, standard protocol – IEC 61850 – a greatly appreciated development.
Why is this technology important in current times?
Substations today are generally unmanned and, as power system networks become more complex, SCADA enables operators to monitor disparate system elements from a central point. This applied primarily to TSO power networks but, increasingly, as industrial clients develop their own networks, often with several substations on one plant site, being able to pinpoint an electrical fault in a matter of seconds and send a maintenance team directly to that area is invaluable. Where substations are practically difficult to access, as with offshore wind power, SCADA is a mandatory solution.
Is setting up SCADA in offshore wind farms very different?
It’s certainly a more complex process; offshore wind farms usually require more than one SCADA system – although, on some projects, it is feasible to feed all offshore information via one integrated SCADA system.
For BELWIND we installed a state-of-the-art SCADA system between the offshore substation and an onshore booster (transformer) station to supervise all the HV, MV and power elements on the offshore platform and the unmanned onshore station. In parallel we have a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) system controlling the reactive power (to meet the TSO requirements). These systems, plus the SCADA system for wind turbine supervision, must integrate to transmit information to various operators – achieved via a protected (restricted access) system supported by the Internet, allowing regular PC connection, from wherever needed, to monitor and supervise the offshore and onshore substations and wind turbines.
How does Tractebel Engineering’s expertise in this domain add value for our clients?
Experts, specialising in one domain, build up an extensive experience working on different projects. Listening to a client’s needs, this means we can very quickly understand the particular parameters of a project and arrive sooner at a feasible solution. Expertise is also the cornerstone to the trust that our clients – and manufacturers, place in us. Many industrial clients repeatedly ask us to configure their SCADA systems in preference to the system manufacturers – in the past we’ve even had manufacturers ask us to help configure their systems too! That’s certainly recognition of the value of our expertise.