Taking Advantage of IEDs and Other Automation Advances through Flexible SCADA System

This article appears in the October 2012 issue of Public Power magazine.

By Susan Ryba

At the City of San Marcos, Texas, Electric Utility, the time had come to replace an antiquated and limited SCADA system. The old system was not well supported, not fully compliant with NERC regulatory standards, and not built on a Windows® platform. At the time, the San Marcos Electric Utility could not receive the full complement of data from its Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) connected to the SCADA system. Electric Utility meters were being used as Remote Terminal Units (RTUs), which limited the amount of IED data the SCADA system could send and receive. These limitations prevented the SCADA users from taking full advantage of the IED functionality remotely, forcing personnel to be dispatched to the IED locations to change settings. To transition away from this cascading array of operational handicaps, the Electric Utility turned to the SCADA solution from Survalent Technology. 

In affiliation with Hometown Connections, Survalent Technology integrates data in real-time from across the utility network to optimize operations and facilitate decisions that improve reliability and business performance. Survalent has helped more than 400 utilities use operational data to improve reliability, efficiency and customer service. Survalent’s SCADA options range from entry level turnkey packages to comprehensive solutions.

“After reviewing many SCADA vendor applications, we selected Survalent for its many project features that meet our needs,” said Lou White, P.E., Electric Utility Senior Engineer. “I had the opportunity to talk with several of their customers as I researched Survalent. Every customer review was positive. Additionally, the ability to view a facsimile of the IED device in SCADA allows field crew foremen to operate more comfortably in the SCADA environment.”

White added, “We are now able to access all of the IED data points, taking full advantage of our IEDs’ functionality. By coupling this capability with our Engineering Analysis software from Milsoft Utility Solutions, we can identify quickly where to dispatch crews for outage restoration. Historical system data is easily retrievable and can be scheduled and sent automatically in various formats. System alarms are sent via email, notifying management of immediate system issues via smart phones.”

San Marcos Electric Utility’s future plans for the Survalent SCADA system include activating features already in place and ready to deploy, such as automated field switching through SCADA, outage text messaging, fault recorder data to SCADA, and AMI integration to SCADA. “We look forward to our continuing relationship with the excellent Survalent team,” White said. “The staff is patient and responsive. All of my issues or questions have been brought to resolution in 24 hours or less.”

For the Electric Department of Fairhope Public Utilities (FPU) in Alabama, the twelve-year old SCADA system was simply not working. No one on staff knew how to repair or operate it, hampering the staff’s ability to respond quickly and efficiently to system alarms, outages, and customer inquiries about power quality. Superintendent Scott H. Sligh, P.E., decided to forge ahead and purchase a new SCADA system capable of serving the needs of his electric department as well as the needs of the gas and water departments. Sligh explained, “We chose the SCADA system from Survalent Technology for two primary reasons. First, we need a SCADA system that is easy to install and use. We do not have the resources to hire consultants or outside contractors. There are a handful of us and we are it. Second, our joint action agency, the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, selected Survalent for its own SCADA deployment, and we value that endorsement.”

Following the installation of the Survalent SCADA system, the FPU electric department has seen a major improvement in trouble response times and customer service. “Recently, during a weekend, a breaker opened,” Sligh said. “There was no loss of power or a call of complaint from a customer. But we were able to pinpoint the break and repair it first thing Monday morning.” In addition, the electric department can now respond with detailed information to commercial accounts concerned about their power quality. “Through the digital readouts from the Survalent system, we can share with our customers detailed reports of voltage levels on a 24/7 basis, illustrating what’s really happening on the system,” Sligh stated.

At FPU, the gas department had never had a SCADA system and the water utility had been operating an older, limited SCADA system. Sligh reports that the gas and water officials at FPU are excited by the many features of the Survalent system and are working to take full advantage of them.

Susan Ryba is a marketing consultant with Hometown Connections.


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