Adapting SCADA Systems to Operational Goals

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of Public Power Magazine.

By Susan Ryba

The Athens Utilities Board has maintained a long commitment to utility automation. For more than 25 years, this Tennessee public power system has relied on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to monitor and control transmission and distribution field devices, including fault sensors, cap bank controllers, and interface relays.  AUB’s first SCADA system lasted from 1984 to 1994, and its second system became obsolete and too expensive to operate by 2009. The utility launched a search for a new and forward-looking solution.

AUB provides electric power, natural gas, water, and wastewater service to approximately 32,000 customer accounts in the City of Athens, Tennessee, and surrounding McMinn County. In 2011, with the utility moving from radio to fiber optic communications and from mechanical to digital relays, as well as investing in a remodeled dispatch center, AUB selected Survalent Technology to install a new SCADA system capable of running advanced and flexible applications far into the future. Survalent Technology provides SCADA, distribution management, and substation automation solutions to help public power utilities use operational data to improve reliability, efficiency, and customer service.

AUB’s new SCADA system features Survalent’s open-architecture system operating on a VMware platform. The system includes several of Survalent’s open system applications, including Event Data Recorder, Master/Slave Alarm Suppression, IED Wizard, Control Panel, Remote Alarm Annunciation, Command Sequencing, External Clock Interface, SNMP Protocol, and Voltage Control.

“We issued a spec for a SCADA system that was somewhat different from our past systems in that we wanted to utilize the SEL relays, our computer system, and our fiber system,” said Larry Monteen, AUB’s Superintendent of Power.  “We were trying to get away from the dedicated server, RTUs, and console concept of our previous SCADA systems.  We wanted to see if a SCADA vendor could run their system on a ‘virtual machine’ or VMware platform, accessing software applications via the Internet ‘cloud’ from our personal computers. We selected Survalent Technology as our vendor because they met our specs, were low bid, and had already installed their software utilizing VMware . . . The Survalent team is extremely knowledgeable, professional, and accommodating.”

Monteen added, “Our priority is to better utilize our digital relays and all their inherent data and functions for better response to system outages and disturbances, as well as to improve our data analysis.  As we progress, we can actually get back to some of the items we used to do in the 1980’s but have not done for a while, including automated voltage and reactive (VAR) control, load management, load research, historical data acquisition and storage, and feeder configuration optimization.”

New Braunfels Utilities (NBU), located in South Central Texas, serves approximately 29,000 electric meters. NBU needed a reliable system which could provide accurate, real-time information on all critical electric infrastructure. The information received was to be used for both long-term system planning, as well as for short-term operation, including emergency system restoration. In particular, NBU needed a system and framework which allowed for remote operation from a centralized dispatch, to accelerate efficiency and responsiveness. Survalent Technology met and exceeded these requirements.

To NBU, Survalent’s adoption of the MultiSpeak® interface standards was a key component to the selection decision. Gregory Thomas, P.E., Division Manager, NBU Electric Engineering, explained, “We see Multispeak as an interface to allow our SCADA system to communicate with many other applications, including GIS, Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and in particular our Engineering Analysis and Outage Management Systems from Milsoft Utility Solutions. As an example, NBU is looking to have the SCADA system automatically notify OMS that a main feeder breaker, or field recloser, has opened. In this way, the OMS and dispatchers can refocus their efforts on the ‘last mile’ outages, which are typically more challenging to identify and pinpoint during critical events. As another example, Survalent Technology’s Websurv allows remote viewing of the SCADA system through a web browser. No longer must executives and operational personnel make a call to NBU dispatch or engineering to view the backbone system status, as it’s literally on their desktop.”

Thomas added, “We chose Survalent Technology for their proven history of providing reliable service to their customers. The company met all the requirements specified in our bid, and their capabilities allow us to expand in many different directions, in any ultimate timeframe. Finally, as a municipally-owned utility, cost effectiveness of any project is always in our mind, and the Survalent Technology system was cost competitive to meet our budget goals . . . NBU installed the Survalent system in early March 2011. To date, the system has been very reliable in providing up-to-date information and in notifying personnel automatically of any large-outage events which occur within our electric service territory. The Survalent team has been integral in helping us assimilate the new SCADA system into our business operation as well as offering support when needed. The system has a monumental volume of flexibility, and they have been able to adapt the system capabilities to our goals.”

Coming soon from Survalent: Mobile WebSurv, an application delivering real-time SCADA information to users via HTML5 web browser, will provide a backbone for a mobile applications and be accessed by smart phones and tablet computers.

Susan Ryba handles marketing for Hometown Connections, which provides the products and services from Survalent Technology and Milsoft Utility Solutions to APPA members at national discount pricing.


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