When it comes to ensuring a reliable and uninterrupted supply of electricity, Substation Automation Systems (SAS) play a crucial role in efficiently managing the rapidly increasing electricity grid networks.
While Substation Automation Systems (SAS) have evolved over the last few years, SAS projects are still considered complex executions that warrant the need for expert SAS integrators.
Choosing The Right SAS Integrator
Since SAS projects typically involve a vast variety of integrated components – from Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs), Microprocessor-based Relays, Meters and Monitoring Devices to RTUs, HMI Interfaces, IT Servers and Communication Hardware along with added SCADA modules such as Energy Management Systems (EMS), choosing an experienced SAS integrator becomes crucial to the success of any SAS project.
Below are 3 crucial parameters to keep in mind when choosing the right integrator for your Substation’s automation project:
1. Multilevel Expertise and Experience
A common prequalifying parameter mandated by many utility companies is that only OEMs are allowed to bid for SAS projects. While OEMs definitely possess the product expertise, they often lack the required execution skills due to the absence of professional in-house installation and service teams.
Just the way the proof of the pudding is in its taste, the success of any SAS project is in its execution. Since the SAS software requires the same level of finesse and expertise as configuring any enterprise-grade software, choosing a SAS implementation agency that possesses years of experience across diverse SAS executions becomes critical.
Few progressive utility companies that do not restrict participation to only OEMs, add a comprehensive clause like “The SAS system provider should have a defined minimum experience in Design, Installation, Testing and Commissioning as well as maintenance of SAS system”. However, this clause is often diluted by allowing OEM execution credentials as a supporting experience proof. This could therein result in the true winning implementation agency to not have the required credentials for the successful delivery of SAS projects.
Furthermore, sometimes utility companies also add a merit clause to seek experienced execution professionals on the payroll of SAS implementing agencies (that in turn ensure that only System Integrators with the requisite talent pool can participate). However, the clause is rarely strictly checked leading to an automatic dilution of bidder credentials.
If all the above clauses are sincerely implemented, the success of the SAS project rises manifold due to the vast amount of talent and experience that professional teams bring on the table. While some may argue that roping in expert System Integrators with a professional talent pool may lead to a higher project price as compared to the typical L1 price, the investment on highly experienced professionals directly translates to a higher success rate of the project. To make sure that the same team members promised by the System Integrator are indeed available and actively involved in the project, utility companies can further insist that the same people conduct their monthly/quarterly status reviews.
2. Domain Expertise In IT Infrastructure and Industry-specific Communication Protocols
While there is no debate on the importance of ‘Going Digital’ to enhance operational efficiencies, the implementation of transformative IT infrastructure has been relatively slow in the Indian power sector.
Many power system operators who are entrusted with the Substation’s complex operations are not well versed with the dynamic, fast-changing IT world and their lack of IT experience often results in an overspend on IT infrastructure such as Servers and Switches that many times remain underutilized. While Substation Smart Monitoring and Control Devices (Intelligent Electronic Devices – IEDs) are often replaced and upgraded during a SAS implementation to meet the required digital ecosystem, there is high risk of underutilization of these IED capabilities due to misguided configurations. Which is why the right SAS Integrator should not only be proficient in power systems operations but also possess proven expertise in IT infrastructure management.
Apart from domain expertise in IT, it is imperative that a SAS Integrator possesses domain expertise in power industry-specific communication protocols such as IEC 61850, IEC 60870-5-104, etc. that are recommended by Global Electrical Engineering standards organisations like IEEE and IEC.
Since these communication protocols play a pivotal role in ensuring seamless interoperability between disparate OEM devices and the SAS software, empanelling an OEM-agnostic System Integrator who has no vested interest in favouring a particular OEM product also becomes crucial in ensuring a successful and economical SAS project.
3. Robust Software With Custom Reporting Capabilities
Since it is the power system operators who will be using the SAS software on a daily basis, anticipating their expectations and infusing the same while customizing the software becomes important.
An ideal SAS software should score high in User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and be nimble enough to quickly adapt to the system operators’ expectations. Not only should the software provide actionable insights through robust analytics and reporting tools but it should also be easy to use to ensure the success of the SAS project.
With their rich experience of working across diverse SAS software, System Integrators are better poised than most OEMs in bringing in the agility that is needed for a truly bespoke SAS solution.
Established in 1988, SCOPE T&M Pvt. Ltd. is India’s leading SAS Solutions Provider with a strong legacy of successfully delivering complex SAS projects for leading power utility companies in India for the last three decades.