Transmission Substation Virtualization Use Case by Barbara

The main goal of virtualization is to provide a new operational environment, which is not bound to any computer hardware or operating system. Hardware components are typically designed to be robust and reliable, but they can also be expensive and difficult to modify or upgrade. Separating hardware from software allows for the software to be updated or modified without affecting the hardware.

Smart Grid
Written by:
Miren Zabaleta

Why Virtualize a Substation?

The separation of hardware and software in electrical equipment has significant implications in terms of design, development, and maintenance. The main reason behind this separation is to allow for greater flexibility, upgradability, and ease of maintenance.

Virtualizing a substation makes it possible to represent its operationin a digital model, in real-time. It enables the automation of processes usingalgorithms programmed by software that act and command the physical elements of a substation. This technique is used to optimise the management and maintenanceof electrical substations, and brings numerous benefits to utilities and end users of the network, such as:

1. It allows operators to have more detailed and accurate visibility ofthe status of a substation in real-time, reducing operators’ maintenance costsin the field.

2. This real-time information and the ability to analyse it with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms, help operatorsidentify and fix substation problems much faster as well as anticipate failures. This results in reduced downtime and thus, fewer power outages forend-users.

3. A virtual infrastructure makesit easier to simulate emergency situations and develop contingency plans, giving better visibility of potential risks and threats and therefore greater physical and cyber security to the network.

4. Finally, a virtualised substation helps companies optimise their infrastructure investment. Given that the evolution of the software istraditionally more agile and cost-effective than that of the hardware,virtualised infrastructures make it possible to update and improve substation operations more frequently, and to plan their maintenance more efficiently. 

Virtualization of an Electrical Substation refers to the creation of a digital replica or simulation of an actual substation using virtualization software. Virtualization works by abstracting the hardware from the software.

An architecture based on microservices

Virtualisation enables operators to gain greater technological flexibility with services developed by independent providers and with different technologies best suited to each operation. Also, scalability is another key aspect for virtualisation as electrical transport infrastructure is made up of thousands of distributed assets. To this end, it is essential to have an architecture based on microservices, as they are independent units that can be scaled separately, according to the specific needs of each installation or application.

Unlike monolithic architectures and, those based on hardware, microservices allow each instance to evolve independently, speeding up the time it takes to launch patches or new functionalities when and where is necessary.

“Barbara´s role is to provide “Edge Computing” capabilities that can operate critical microservices due to their security and performance and tobecome part of the digital services architecture of the TSO”.

In the following paper we illustrate  three critical processes that Barbara, together with its partners, have virtualised based on microservices and tested in substation laboratory environments:

1. Real-time oscilloscope for GOOSE triggered power data

2. Remotely programmable real-time interlocks

3. Ventilation control via SF6 monitoring

Want to know more, download the project here

Barbara, the Cybsersecure Edge Platform for Smart Grids

Barbara Industrial Edge Platform is a powerful tool that can help organizations simplify and accelerate their Edge AI Apps deployments, building, orchestrating and maintaining easily container-based or native applications across thousands of distributed edge nodes.

At Barbara, we think that the Smart Grid cannot be solely managed from centralised platforms. Connectivity, data volume, the need for real-time esponses and the security and privacy of data and equipment are all challenges that only a highly distributed and independent IT infrastructure can handle.

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