What is IEC 61850 and Why is it Necessary?

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Why IEC61850?

Imagine having hundreds of manufacturing plants scattered across the country, all with their own brands of devices communicating in a wide spectrum of protocols. Now imagine that in order for these plants to function efficiently and effectively, there is a need for these plants to communicate with each other BUT the protocols are not interoperable; the devices are not meant to communicate with each other natively.

Replace these manufacturing plants with substations and you have an idea what is happening throughout the world with regards to power transmission and distribution. In order to maintain power quality and reliability, substations need to communicate with each other. However, with the many protocols, much engineering work is required.

Furthermore, with renewable energies and micro-grids introducing a different set of manufacturers, protocols and electricity capable of disturbing the stability of grid-supplied electricity (e.g. frequency of power supplied) and the increased emphasis on renewable energy in the energy mix of countries around the world, a pressing need for a common protocol results. This need manifested itself into IEC61850, a common protocol that facilitates interoperability and communications among “Intelligent Electronic Devices (IED)” in substations, which will be essential for developments of smart grid or Virtual Heat and Power plants (VHP).

The advantage of IEC61850 does not end there though! Other advantages include:

  • IEC61850 is built upon Ethernet communication backbones. Hence, communication bandwidth and speed is much larger and faster respectively compared to Serial communications. With more sophisticated IEDs, more data which demand faster responses than ever before are being transferred and Ethernet backbones becomes necessary.
  • IEC61850 is an object-oriented protocol as compared to older protocols which are signal-oriented. For signal-oriented protocols, in your control system, you will refer to your data points as 10004, 21015 from device 1, 2, 3 etc. This means that you will have to take time to find out what each point represents against your library of data. While this is okay for small scale systems, it becomes problematic when there are tens of thousands of data points, which is common for power.For IEC61850 on the other hand, data point’s identification is much easier. Example: status value (stval) of local value (Loc) belonging in status function (ST) for circuit breaker 1 (XCBR1) of Relay 1.
    iec61850 nomenclature
    With a standardized nomenclature structure and common abbreviations in place, we observe that as long as one is familiar with the naming rules, it will be intuitive in knowing what the point is. This will lead to drastic decrease of engineering cost as less time is spent on identifying the relevant points.Furthermore, all devices are self-describing. This means that a control software engineer does not need to enter the points individually. Instead, the control software will automatically detect and identify all data points within the IEDs.
  • Redundancy: Unlike other Ethernet redundancy methods like RSTP (rapid spanning tree protocol), the redundancy for IEC61850 provides for zero recovery time. IEC61850 utilizes Parallel Redundancy Protocol, under which each source sends out 2 copies of a frame, through 2 different routes. Hence, if one path fails, the data will still reach the destination via the alternative route, preventing downtime. PRP has since been amended, aligning it to High speed redundancy protocol which utilizes a ring network, unlike in previous version of PRP which operates in parallel network. Hence, PRP and HSR is largely equivalent today.
  • Other protocols (MMS, GOOSE, SMV) also allows for data to be communicated faster and more reliably from IEDs to central station, between IEDs and in SMV case, from PTs and CTs to the IEDs.

At Phoenix Contact, our portfolio of IEC61850 industrial communication products include:
Network switches (Ethernet, Fibre)
Parallel Redundancy Module
Fibre Patch Panels
Fibre Splicing tools
Fibre and Ethernet Connectors
IEC61850 IEDs:
IEC61850 Bus couplers

Power supplies
DC-DC Converter
Terminal blocks

To find out more,

Click here to download our IEC 61850 Products brochure or contact us at marketing@phoenixcontact.com.sg for a demo on IEC61850 configuration.



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