November 2016, Tasmania Australia – TasNetworks has recently deployed secure remote engineering access to their NOJA Power RC10 Series controlled Automatic Circuit Reclosers. TasNetworks have provided their engineers with improved capability to analyse faults and quicken response times. Employing this capability for remote engineering limits the costs traditionally associated with deployment of field teams. This cost saving allows TasNetworks to make the best investments to ensure that the TasNetwork’s customers are provided with the essential service of electricity supply in the most economic and efficient way.
In the history of managing distribution networks, remote fault finding was usually taken quite literally. After a critical network fault or equipment failure, Distribution Network Service Provider (DNSP) fault finding teams would depart the depot and drive off to investigate the location of a fault. In some cases the time spent in the field looking for particular faults may grow to several hours. The feeder would be out of service throughout the time of this investigation, causing the DNSP to be exposed to customer outage penalties as well as the operating costs of sending the fault finding teams to the field.
With the proliferation of microprocessor controlled network assets, the age of technology now allows for secure remote access to this information. Equipment such as the NOJA Power RC10 Recloser Controller is a prime candidate for utility deployment of remote engineering access.
Remote Engineering Access is the capability for authorised utility personnel to communicate and login to remote field Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs). This remote engineering access is synonymous with a local connection for configuration and interrogation of these network assets, but it affords this access from a remote location. Utility Protection Engineers and Planners are provided with a capability to access the data they require immediately without needing to visit field devices.
Sperry Pinner from TasNetworks commented that "Engineering access is a valuable cost saving tool for the Protection & Control Engineering team. Settings changes and data interrogation can be made in as little as ten minutes on line. Otherwise, to send a field crew to the recloser site can cost up to three or four hours return travel for some reclosers which incurs extra cost."
“Secure communications is the future for electricity utilities,” advocates NOJA Power Group Managing Director Neil O’Sullivan. “Both our RC10 and RC15 controls support IP based communications with a variety of industry standard protocols including DNP3, IEC60870-5-104 and IEC61850. The RC15 with its on-board 4G modem capability allows our customers to very quickly establish secure communications on private 4G networks.”
In an increasingly interconnected world it makes technical and commercial sense for utilities to embrace the benefits provided by remote engineering access to remote field devices. Utilities are arming their engineers with the capacity to execute fault analysis and equipment troubleshooting. The NOJA Power RC10 Recloser Controller case study at TasNetworks is a clear demonstration of the secure deployment of additional network capability.