Measuring at the highest level with IEC 61850

To ensure safe, reliable power supply, communication between the components in a substation is essential – and the IEC 61850 protocol is indispensable for this.
Christan van Dorst, Manager Technical Engineering, HyTEPS

For years, organizations have used a variety of communication protocols to keep network infrastructures in substations functioning properly. However, when the first protocols were designed, the technology was far less advanced than it is today. Microchips had significantly less computing power and Ethernet, TCP/IP, and high-speedWAN didn’t even exist.

The need to have all these protocols communicate with each other, and ensure they are updated and optimized has resulted in IEC 61850: a communication protocol specially developed for substations. Several requirements had to be met for this:

  • Support for extremely high data rates
  • Continuous availability – connections should never be interrupted
  • Security and reliability: data packets must always arrive in perfect condition
  • Interoperability between components and platforms from different suppliers (it should be possible to exchange these quickly and easily).
  • Maximum future-proofing, in order to implement continuous optimizations and improvements, for example when it comes to security updates.
  • Make use of existing, reliable technologies and standards that have proven themselves.

Some key benefits of IEC 61850

  • For many companies, availability of power is ‘mission critical’: factories, public infrastructure, factories, distribution centers, network administrators, datacenters… IEC 61850 makes things easier for these parties because it ensures optimal integration and interoperability between all system components in a substation – thereby supporting reliable operation of the entire system.
  • If measurements are carried out in accordance with IEC 61850, up-to-date accurate information is always available, warnings and alerts are issued in good time, and all parties involved work with the same information.
  • The protocol is completely brand-independent: all components, of all types and brands, at all levels, for example in a cabinet, can ‘talk’ to each other.

What can HyTEPS do?

Our advanced measuring equipment, including devices from SATEC and Elspec, is fully compatible with the 61850 protocol. This makes it possible to provide data directly to anyone who needs it. Energy consumption, Power Quality and all operational parameters that relate to, for example, KPIs and production planning and costs are continuously monitored. The resulting data can be analyzed by our Power Competence Center, allowing us to provide proactive advice. IEC 61850 compliant monitoring not only ensures reliable ‘traditional’ high-voltage networks. The yield of wind and solar parks or electric fleets can also be maximized.

We can therefore also provide network security for all conceivable types of networks. From very small networks to the very largest, such as operator networks, renewable energy sources, or very heavy industries and datacenters that manage large 10 kV grids.

IEC 61850 has been around for some time, but take-up is growing rapidly. This international standard for substation automation will, therefore, have a major impact on the way electrical energy systems are designed and built in the coming years. That will lead to very significant improvements in the performance, reliability, and cost of electrical power systems.

IEC 61850

IEC 61850 Communication levels

IEC 61850 is the international standard for data communication in, and modelling of, electrical substations. IEC 61850 makes it possible to transmit commands and information efficiently and reliably over a substation’s high-speed network.

The protocol has three levels:

This covers devices such as circuit breakers, load separators or data acquisition equipment for current, voltage and other parameters.

This consists of individual ‘Intelligent Electronic Devices’. These IEDs process data from the process level, provide local control, and send data to the Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) for further analysis and processing.

This includes the SCADA system, plus control and monitoring equipment that monitors the operation of a substation.  The connection to the network operator’s network control system uses a variety of WAN technologies.

IEC 61850 Communication levels

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