Giving You More Control Over Your World

October 8, 2020

Let me know if you can relate to this: You misplaced your mobile phone and when you discover that it’s not in any of the spots where you usually leave it, a sense of panic starts to creep into your thoughts. And the longer it takes to find it, the more you start to worry.  

It’s not just that you can’t find your phone; it’s that you feel disconnected from all of the technology you rely on to exist in our digital world.   

For most of us, our phones have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. They are our communication link and data hub center for news, weather, sports scores, podcast recordings, audio notes, fantasy football results, workout records, and the hundreds of photos and videos we take for fun and work. However, it’s not just the device that we hold in our hands that connects us to all that content, it’s the network that supports it – from the content that we seek out or maybe even create ourselves, to the storage of that content, to the transmission of it through the Internet and WiFi connections.  

While this might sound like a stretch, in a way, this personal communications network is like a micro version of the communications systems that are integrated into modern grid systems. Without this technology, which helps to integrate the system and provide data about the grid’s performance, utilities are disconnected from what’s happening in the field. If the correct technology isn’t specified, or it’s not put into place correctly, the system won’t be able to properly integrate with other technology.  

Power Grids Becoming More Complex 

Like the personal technology we use daily, power grids are becoming more complex. The grid is moving from centralized systems where power is transmitting from a few traditional fossil-fuel powered plants, to a decentralized system. In a decentralized system, power is transmitted from numerous sources such as wind and solar farms, and small-scale solar gardens. This makes operating the grid more complex. For example, it creates additional cybersecurity concerns.  

To make things even more complicated, the technology for grid data, security and network communications, both software and devices, is constantly evolving. Power companies are placed in the situation of needing to integrate all of this technology from different vendors while meeting the increasing need for remote access and timely data retrieval. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution – it all needs to be customized based on a utility’s needs.  

As an owner or operator within the power or renewable utility markets, it is important to have a reliable communication network in place. The system should be versatile, providing customized data, monitoring and control measures that can efficiently resolve outages and even predict failures.  

Finding an Integrated Solution 

System Integration is generally defined as the ability to incorporate data and control of sub-system equipment from multiple vendors and bring them all together into a single unified system that meets the owner’s operational and regulatory needs.  

Ulteig’s System Integration professionals work with clients to offer Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and networking design services, which can be part of an upfront collaborative effort on a greenfield site or re-evaluated at an existing site.  

For example, the Ulteig team recently worked with an owner of a generation facility in Texas to meet its requirements for transient cyber assets. The project involved the deployment of an Ulteig laptop into their system, which could be securely accessed by our SCADA integrators while being in close coordination with onsite personnel. They then worked one-on-one with onsite personnel to connect individual devices to program, troubleshoot and access the owner’s generation system through a local area network (LAN). 

The key to Ulteig’s solution was working with the generation owner to document the cybersecurity and malware management Standard Operating Procedures. The remote laptop fits the definition of a Transient Cyber Asset under NERC-CIP-003-7, so the owner must implement plans to address “Transient Cyber Asset and Removable Media Malicious Code Risk Mitigation.” The integration was performed from a thousand miles away, and the utility was able to stay on track with their construction schedule.  

Six Keys to Systems Integration 

If you’re wondering if your control and data acquisition system is keeping you in control of your world, consider these tips from our team: 

  • Customize a Solution – With the continued growth of technology, there is no one size fits all approach. Each system and each generation owner requires a custom solution to optimize the use of technology and integrate it not only within the system, but with the people who are maintaining and monitoring the system. 
  • Collect Historical Data to Optimize Your System – When you integrate your system, you will want to access historical data, which allows you to review events leading up to faults and major system events, track equipment and site conditions over time, and provide the necessary infrastructure to conduct load forecasts. This type of data is the key to optimizing your system to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. 
  • Anticipate Future Events – An important factor in integrating your system is to define what events should or should not warrant notification. By not setting an alarm, you could easily miss a critical opportunity to address a potentially serious issue.
  • Visualize Your Data – In today’s YouTube world, data needs to be visualized to help your control staff more quickly comprehend changing conditions. This is particularly important as a new generation joins your staff.  
  • Consider Human2Human Communications – Sometimes, we get caught up in thinking too much about the technology. Successful System Integration projects take into account the actual people who will be interacting with the system and drawing data from it. Upfront communication is critical to learning what operators will need from the system and to refining the system over time to better meet their needs.  
  • Design for Mobile – Speaking of mobile phones, for today’s SCADA system designs to be more effective, they should be configured to meet people where they’re at and how they interface with technology on a day-to-day basis. More often than not, that means deploying text or email alerts whenever a significant event takes place.  

Want to learn more about System Integration Solutions?  

At Ulteig, our team of System Integration professionals offers an extensive set of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and networking design services. We help utilities establish a reliable, versatile communications network with customized data, monitoring and control measures. To learn more, visit our System Integration and SCADA page here. 

By Cassie Polman, PE, Associate Director-Substation, and Seth Maslowski, PE, Technical Manager-Substation

Cassie Polman, PE, is an Associate Director, leading a group of Ulteig Technical Managers and their substation teams focused on protection and control, SCADA & Network core projects. Cassie has more than 18 years of experience in substation protection and control, electrical design and portfolio and project management. Her responsibilities as a substation engineer have included project management for generation interconnections and transmission substations, scoping and cost estimating for projects, one-lines, three-lines, AC and DC schematics, wiring diagrams, protective relay settings, RTU points list and configurations, electrical layouts, as well as equipment specifications for substation equipment and providing construction support. Her responsibilities as a portfolio manager included ensuring that the load serving transmission capital projects collectively represent a manageable budget, schedule and utilization of resources through portfolio analysis and project controls. 

Seth Maslowski, PE, is a Technical Manager in Ulteig’s Power Technical Services, Substation Department with focus on substation protection and control, SCADA systems, volt/var control schemes, and substation automation. He has 15 years of consulting engineering and project management experience including client, vendor, and contractor coordination. His technical work includes the design, programming, testing, training, and support of industrial and substation control systems, PLC programming, HMI development, SCADA design and configuration, and substation protection and control design. 

  • System Integration & SCADA, Technology


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