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The brains behind the supply network

With a strong history of innovation in the field of electricity distribution, ABB has now taken another significant step forward by being one of the first companies to commit itself to the first truly international standard IEC 61850 – for open communications in local monitoring and control systems at electricity substations.
ABB Oy, Process Industry

The more people use electricity and the more electrical appliances and gadgets there are on the market, the more people come to take reliable electricity supply for granted. Preventing power cuts and the damage to property, loss of earnings, and, in worst-case scenarios, the life-threatening accidents they can bring, requires high-quality operating, protection, and monitoring equipment in electricity distribution systems.

ABB has been in the vanguard of this field since the early 1970s, and introduced the world's first microprocessor-controlled protective relay back in 1982, and has followed this with numerous product innovations since then.

Traditionally, protective relays have protected people and equipment by disengaging the damaged equipment from the rest of the electricity network, as in the case of a thunder strike, for example. Today's relays do much more than that, however.

At their best, they function as the 'brains' behind the electricity network – by not only protecting, but also telling network operators and owners what has happened in a failure situation and where a fault can be found and how it can be rectified.

The introduction and spread of the IEC 61850 standard will mean better interconnectivity and functionality for electricity distribution systems.

More communications capabilities

Communicative and intelligent protective relays are a good beginning, but as electrical networks grow larger and more complex, they are not nearly enough. Entire systems must be capable of advanced communication, both internally and with other systems.

ABB believes that the way forward here is IEC 61850, the first truly international standard for open communications in local monitoring and control systems at electricity substations – and has been one of the first companies to commit to the standard.

Future-proof interoperability

By making it possible to understand both the structure and the meaning of diverse information flows, and by using industry-standard Ethernet and TCP/IP technologies, IEC 61850 will put an end to the expensive protocol conversions between proprietary protocols that are needed today.

IEC 61850 will provide full, future-proof interoperability, enabling information between Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) supplied by different manufacturers to be exchanged, and facilitating the standardised sharing of engineering information between tools supplied by different suppliers and system integrators.

Benefiting from the latest communication technology, and able to be easily adapted to future enhancements, IEC 61850 heralds a new era in more cost-effective distribution system investments.

> Erkki Antila
(Published in High Technology Finland )