Category Archives: Power

The Smart Grid: How automation empowers the future of Electricity

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Smart Grid plans for the future and beyond

Exemplary model of the future Smart Grid – Automation in Electricity

The “smart grid” is a rapidly growing set of technologies, processes, devices and applications that affect and enhance the traditional electric grid.

These advances are partially driven by exponentially growing demands worldwide for energy as expressed in a commonly repeated statistic that “global electricity demand is expected to increase 75% by 2030.”

What’s happening with the smart grid also reflects developments made in communications, from Internet to cellular to wireless, as well as higher expectations from consumers regarding energy availability, rising energy costs and access to their energy information.

A smarter grid will also help integrate renewable energy including wind and solar into the energy mix.

Defining the Smart Grid

To understand the smart grid, you first need to get familiar with the 125-year-old electric grid. Most people don’t think about where the electricity they’re using comes from or how it gets to their homes and offices.

The electric grid consists of several main touchpoints in an overall system that gets electricity from creation to the end user:

The main touchpoints for electricity include:

  1. Generation — the creation of electrons that make up electricity.
  2. Transmission — moving high-voltage power from generators at power plants through transmission lines, reducing it down to 12,000 volts.
  3. Distribution — where transformers convert power to the 110 volts running in residentials
  4. Retail — the metering, monitoring, and measuring of power usage that results in a bill to the consumer from a utility company.
  5. Customer/Consumption — the end user experience with the power.
Conventional Power Grid

Diagram of how a conventional grid looks like

Smart grid technologies and innovations occur at — and can affect — any and all steps of the electricity ecosystem. Some are more focused on the utility side while others address the customer.

Smart Grid Developments

In the “old days” up until the last 10 to 15 years, utility workers — meter readers — were deployed into neighborhoods to read and write down data retrieved from energy meters in people’s back yards.

The first major change to this process came in the form of Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), through which meters communicate via a one-way signal to a truck that is driven through neighborhoods to collect data.

AMR collection

Collecting data used to be arduous and manual. Requiring long man-hours.

With advancement in technology, there’s the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) going beyond just reading meters and sending data to utilities — it also sends information back to the home and to the consumer.

AMI systems, automatic data across channels

With AMI, information can be transmitted to individual homeowners as well as utility offices for record purposes.

Smart meters aren’t effective without some kind of communications method to transmit data such as cellular, Wi-Fi or other wireless protocols.

Unlike cellular systems such as GSM and GDMA, Phoenix Contact’s wireless system isn’t optimized for tens of users but instead for tens of thousands of “users” that are in actuality devices, such as meters and sensors.

Our system is designed for extremely long-range and broad coverage so utility companies can deploy these communication networks more cheaply and reach more devices more effectively.

Other interesting developments in the Smart Grid would be the availability of web portals and dashboards that present aggregated power usage data in ways that are understood even by laypersons.

Such software and services, connecting to the Internet display real-time data about the power consumption via a short-range wireless system.

Information like these was never thought of before and it can assist in regulating power consumption in homes or in industrial plants, saving tons from electricity wastage.

Eventually, with systems like this along with “time-of-day pricing,” you will know exactly how much money you’re spending down to the minute, and you’ll be able to modify your behavior to use your appliances at different times.

Or better yet, you’ll benefit from an automated system that regulates usage for you based on your usage habits and peak usage times to run certain appliances at “cheaper” times of the day.

Global Smart Grid Adoption is Going Strong

Smart grid adoption is happening across the globe. Examples are:

  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada— Ontario was the first province in Canada to introduce what is referred to as “time-of-use pricing.” The system is said to have 100% smart meter deployment.
  • Texas, U.S.— The electricity market in the state of Texas has been deregulated, and the state has close to a 100% saturation of smart meters along with an automated system to give customers their energy usage data through smart grid technology and web portals.
  • Scandinavia— At 100% penetration, citizens of Sweden and Finland are seeing the benefits of the smart grid, including in-home smart technologies.

While the United States may be spending the most money on smart grid tech innovation and deployment, other countries making significant headway with implementation include Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe, including Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and France.

In Asia, while Japan and South Korea are already heavily invested in the smart grid, China is poised to become a major investor. Asia and Latin America are seen as emerging smart grid markets as they roll out smart meter programs in India and Brazil.

Japan is moving towards smart electrical grids

Electric cables in Japan

In future, for Smart Grid technology to further grow exponentially, the following implementations need to be considered:

  • Data connection between demand (when you turn a light on) and generation (energy being created in a power plant). If you can get more granular data about usage, you can better forecast energy needs and usage, which then can be applied to create more efficient energy generation.
  • Electricity storage. When there’s low energy demand, excess energy should be able to be stored and then accessed or discharged during peak usage periods. For an example of storage on a small scale, consider an electric vehicle — when turned off and plugged in, it’s storing energy to be used during the day when the car is running.
  • Automated energy efficiency for consumers. Businesses do not usually have the time or inclination to proactively make their offices, factories and other environments more energy-efficient. In order to reduce energy usage and shift grid load, we need more services that automatically make smarter energy choices.
  • The private market needs to step up to the plate. Instead of relying on government-sponsored programs, the private sector needs to develop products and/or services that can be easily packaged and delivered to consumers. For example, a telecom company could add an energy efficiency program to its offerings, adding a commercial layer to the smart grid so it becomes more accessible to consumers.

Regardless of where the innovations are coming from, smart grid infrastructure serves utilities and consumers by leveraging information technology to bring advanced communications to a previously “dumb” network.

By putting a greater emphasis on information retrieval, aggregation, reporting and analysis, the potential to save on energy and modify energy consumption behavior can benefit everyone.


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Phoenix Contact Has Industrial PCs (IPC) Too!

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Phoenix Contact has come a long way with our IPC.  Yes! Industrial PCs. We have always been known for our terminal blocks and other passive components such as relays and PCB connectors. However, Phoenix Contact is not a name one would link to IPCs.

Hydroelectric Power Station

Source: Ontario Power Station

Embarking on a drive to introduce active components during the 1970’s, the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’, success was achieved in the European Automotive market since it was a period of rapid growth. With the mass production of cars fueling industrial progress, our INTERBUS range of automation products soon elevated Phoenix Contact to become a household name in the European Automotive Industry.

Unfortunately, the same success could not be replicated in Asia.  With Japan being the only player in the past 5 decades and in recent times China, Thailand and Malaysia, the Phoenix Contact name did not really catch on in Southeast Asia for Automation products such as the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). Nevertheless, in the last two decades, Phoenix Contact continued to develope a wide range of automation products targeted at other industries.

One such industry is the Power Industry.

More Than Just Terminal Blocks

In one of our recent roadshows, we found out that a hydroelectric dam managed by the local utilities authority was expanding with two new plants. Our customer was in need of our components such as digital display, measuring instrument, relays, terminal blocks etc…and we provided them with samples to test.

During the engagement with the project team, we realised that they were in need of an Industrial PC to use with their software to drive the Power Management System.  We proposed our product but the team was skeptical if our IPC would be compatible with their software. They have had no prior experiences with our IPCs.

Consequently, we loaned them a sample for testing. Reformatting our IPC to install a fresh copy of their software, our hardware was connected and tested with their system. The team concluded that our IPC was 100% compatible with their software.

Why Phoenix Contact’s IPC?

Phoenix Contact’s IPC was chosen not just because it was 100% compatible with our customer’s software but because of our teams dedication to ensuring that our customers would be successful integrating our products into their system.

Throughout the testing, our team provided close support and technical assistance to help streamline their engineering and design process.

What Products Do We Recommend?

EMPro Energy Meter

EMPro Energy Meter

Measuring instrument – EEM-MA600 – 2901366 : For measurement and indication of electrical parameters (voltage, current, frequency, etc) in which voltage and frequency are converted to analog outputs to feedback to Power distribution system for generator control.

Digital Display

Digital Display

Digital display – FA MCR-D-TUI-UI-2REL-UP – 2907064: For the measurement and indication of generator bearing and winding temperature via RTDs. Relay outputs from digital display triggered upon reaching temperature threshold.

Industrial PC (IPC)

Industrial PC

Industrial PC – BL PPC 7000 – 2701398 – For the running and operation of the Power distribution software.

Relay module

Relay Module

Relay Module – PR2-RSC3-LDP-24DC/2X21 – 2834643: Used as interposing relay which requires at least 10A.

Our team is dedicated to helping you to find the products that best fit your requirements.  If you are successful, we are successful.  Contact us and we will gladly visit you to let you know more about our products and services.

Interested to find out more about our Industrial PCs? Send us your enquiry and we will get in touch with you soon.

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Or you can call Wayne Yang @ +65 9072 2580

Electric Power and Renewable Energy 2016 Myanmar

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Exhibition Image

Electric Power and Renewable Energy 2016 Myanmar

We will be participating at the 4th International Electric Power and Renewable Energy 2016 Myanmar Exhibition from the 13th – 15th of October at the Myanmar Event Park (MEP) in Yangon.

Come down and join us to find out more about what we can do for you in the area of Power generation and transmission and solar. We are located at G16, Singapore Pavilion.

Click here to register at the event’s website.

Cybersecurity for Industrial Processes

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Cybersecurity for Industrial Processes

Cybersecurity has become an increasingly prevalent subject in the last decades. While the focus has been largely on IT infrastructure and online safety, more attention has now been placed on Cybersecurity for industrial processes such as factory automation, water/wastewater plants, power generation and power T&D. This can be attributed to the increased awareness that cybersecurity required for IT is very different from cybersecurity efforts needed for industrial processes.

The main difference is the priority for these two information infrastructure. In IT, it is possible to focus heavily on cybersecurity, such that emails, applications, documents can be blocked with minimal impact on a companies’ P&L. On the other hand, downtime can result if files are stopped from being passed from one device to the other for Industrial processes. Downtime for Industrial processes is very costly as one can observe below.

downtime by industry
The are explicit costs due to downtime. In the case of concerted attack on Nuclear Power Plans (stuxnet incident)  or Power T&D systems (recent Ukraine cyberattack, causing mass blackout affecting at least 200,000 citizens), prolong system downtime can lead to life being lost, severe inconveniences amongst other non-monetary, immeasurable outcomes.

With such different requirements, it is then common sense that plant owners should look beyond IT cybersecurity devices for protection of industrial processes. While firewalls, VPNs, VLans, subnet etc. works for both IT and Industrial processes; IDS/IPS (Intrusion detection system/Intrusion protection system) is not ideal for Industrial processes because they are actively monitoring the data passing through. This not only slows down data transfer and cause delays (again, not damaging in IT network) but often results in false alarms: There can be unusual data passing through which might not be malicious but are essential to operations. IPS/IDS will stop these data and can potentially lead to down time.

In particular, IPS/IDS are used to protect against zero-day attacks/advanced persistent threats where an external party remains in contact with malicious code after they infiltrate systems. These external parties then manipulate these codes further to target specific loopholes. As such, anti-virus cannot detect these codes (no known signature) and firewalls/VPNs are bypassed.

At Phoenix Contact, we recommend MGuard with CIFS Integrity Monitoring that is tailored for Industrial Processes Protection against Zero-day attacks and advanced persistent threats:

Discover Malware on Day Zero: Integrity Monitoring

Due to the general problems with the deployment of antivirus software on industrial PCs and the timely provision of malware signatures, alternative techniques of integrity assurance are gaining relevance for the protection of industrial systems.
One solution is the CIFS Integrity Monitoring feature offered on Phoenix Contact’s FL mGuard security devices. CIFS, or Common Internet File System, is a file-sharing protocol used by Windows and other operating systems. Viewing files on network file servers and using shared network drives are common activities that utilize CIFS. With Integrity Monitoring, the user can monitor configurable sets of files for unexpected modifications of executable code. When initialized, Integrity Monitoring computes a baseline of signatures for all monitored objects and then periodically checks them for any deviations. This process works without any external supply of virus signatures, without the risk of disrupting operations through “false positives,” without installation of software, and with only a moderate load on the monitored PCs, while primarily utilizing the resources of an mGuard security appliance. The mGuard thus discovers suspect file modifications promptly, and reports them via SNMP and e-mail to network
management systems or responsible administrators.

In a test study performed at the University of Ostwestfalen-Lippe in Lemgo, Germany, researchers from the independent inIT institute for industrial IT (www.hs-owl.de/init/en/) have been able to verify that mGuard CIFS Integrity Monitoring would have recognized infections with Stuxnet on day zero as unexpected manipulations and warned asset operators against it long before any antivirus product. The device drivers installed by Stuxnet, as well as the modifications performed by the worm on the pivotal SIMATIC Manager DLL,
would have been discovered in the process.

Some other features that makes mGuard ideal:

  • Stealth mode – fast retrofitting without the need to configure/reconfigure IP addresses
  • OPC Inspectors – ability to track random ports opened by OPC Classic, which render firewall useless
  • 3G remote access
    1. If there are deviations detected with CIFS integrity monitoring, SMS alarm can be sent to system engineers.
    2. Although regular CIFS scan can be scheduled, in the event of known cyberattacks, engineers can simply SMS into mGuard to start an adhoc scan
    3. With 3G, mGuard or devices connected to mGuard can be remotely accessed from anywhere around the world

To find out more about how mGuard can help to secure your industrial systems:

Click here to download a white paper on Post-stuxnet Industrial Security

or contact us for a demo on MGuard configuration

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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

Others:
Power supplies
DC-DC Converter
Markings
Terminal blocks

To find out more,

Click here to download our IEC 61850 Products brochure

or contact us for a demo on IEC61850 configuration

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