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Improving the reliability, availability, and operation of Uniteds electric distribution system

NITED COOPERATIVE SERVICES (United) began implementing several levels of distribution automation (DA) approximately ten years ago. Since that time, the

Cooperative has seen many successes and has learned valuable lessons from the system implementation. Automating a distribution system outside of the substation can bring substantial benefits to the end-consumers by improving system reliability, planning, design, and response to outage and power quality issues. Defining DA in the context of this review may be helpful. DA is the implementation of technology to improve the reliability, availability, and operation of the electric distribution system. One could go further to call DA a key component of a smart grid, and the authors believe that DA in the context of this review is a step in that direction. The availability of technology for electric DA has grown significantly over the last 15 years. Many in the electric distribution industry have adapted available technology to their system for the benefit of their electric customers. United began looking at automating its distribution system
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MIAS.2009.934970


1077-2618/10/$26.002010 IEEE


began to grow as well, which demanded even further automation of the system. Capacitors and regulators were DA IS THE added to the DA system to provide IMPLEMENTATION diagnostics and remote control where needed for large industrial customers. OF TECHNOLOGY As more electronic reclosers were installed, the option of remote switchTO IMPROVE THE ing via SCADA became obvious. Purpose and Design Eleven remote-controlled SCADA Several challenges led to the birth of RELIABILITY, switches were installed at key points DA at United. System growth, availacross the system. Critical manufacturability, reliability, engineering, and AVAILABILITY, ing load further necessitated an autoplanning expectations all drove United AND OPERATION mated switching transfer arrangement toward implementing DA. United at another location. viewed technology as the solution to OF THE ELECTRIC In the quest for improved reliabilthese challenges, so objectives were set ity and availability in the face of conwith that in mind. Importance was DISTRIBUTION tinued system expansion, the need given to setting clear objectives for evalarose for an outage management sysuating the available technologies on the SYSTEM. tem (OMS) and two-way automated market. Once clear objectives had been meter infrastructure (AMI). While set, the analysis and review of the availOMS and AMI can definitely be conable options was centered on meeting sidered part of DA, the authors choose to not include a those objectives, as will be shown throughout this review. review of these technologies in the description of Uniteds DA project. Beginning the Project Taking advantage of all of the tools mentioned earlier The beginning of the DA project at United occurred after several technologies were already in place. In the mid to has allowed Uniteds distribution engineering and operalate 1990s, United had already deployed a supervisory tions personnel to reach higher reliability goals and as a control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and one- result have a very satisfied membership. Having historical way automated meter-reading technology. The SCADA reliability data both before and after the implementation system was used to collect substation data and control of the DA system would overwhelmingly demonstrate reclosers and transmission switches within the substation. this, but unfortunately, the consolidation of two cooperaThere were only a few other SCADA functions used, and tives to form United occurred relatively close to the beginthe automated meter-reading system was only used for ning of the DA project, making it difficult to compare obtaining meter readings. Consequently, this review of reliability statistics because of other variables that interautomation will discuss technology implemented from fere with the analysis. It is apparent to United, however, that the functionality of the DA system has improved effithe late 1990s forward. Uniteds service territory is such that it borders a major ciency and reliability simply based on the number of times metropolitan area. Strong outgrowth from metropolitan it is relied upon on a daily basis. Each remote operation of areas brought people who had high-reliability expecta- a downline device represents a direct reduction in outage tions of their electric provider. Generally, metro area elec- time and operating costs for the cooperative. tric companies have relatively short feeders and high densities, thus noticeably better reliability and availability Project Costs and Installation when compared with a rural electric cooperative. Higher An experienced electric distribution engineer realizes that expectations required the introduction of technology to the counterweight to implementing technology and autoimprove reliability and availability. The key driver was mation is the cost. Costs include design, equipment, Uniteds growing use of three-phase electronic reclosers installation labor, and maintenance. For this review, outside of the substation that were not SCADA controlled. approximate costs will be listed for different components Because of continued operations and outages due to faults of the system. beyond these reclosers, United decided to begin its autoBefore automation could begin, a method had to be mation project with these devices. The goal was not only developed to allow field devices to communicate with to provide monitoring and control of the reclosers but to the office. A communications infrastructure needed to be collect other useful data as well. United worked with designed and implemented. After review of many capable several vendors to select a product to replace and standard- technologies available at the time, United chose to impleize all substation and downline electronic recloser ment a spread-spectrum radio network on the unlicensed controls. After combining the new controls with a multi- 900-MHz frequency band that would integrate with the faceted, system-wide spread-spectrum radio network and existing SCADA master station. As with a typical multian upgraded SCADA system using distributed network ple address system (MAS), master radios with omnidirecprotocol (DNP), Uniteds DA network was born. tional antennas were installed at towers across the After initial implementation, system growth contin- territory with the help of Uniteds generation and transued, and expectations of service availability and reliability mission cooperative (Brazos). Brazos and United worked heightened. The industrial and commercial base of United together to install and configure the master radios and in the late 1990s in an attempt to improve reliability and service to its member-owners. Through careful review, design, implementation, and operation, United has seen many successes in utilization of technology in automating its distribution system.


settled on the General Electric-Microrepeaters across the network. The netwave Data System (GE-MDS) 9810 work basically allows each automated THE SCADA spread-spectrum radio, which has device to send and receive data and been reliable so far but not without controls from the corporate headquarSYSTEM WAS USED problems. One major issue is the fact ters of United through Brazos existing that, periodically, the radio will lock microwave radio network infrastrucTO COLLECT up, requiring a field trip to cycle ture. Master radio installation costs power on the radio. Models are now including labor and equipment ranged SUBSTATION DATA available that have remedied that from US$7,000 to US$15,000 and problem and also allow a single radio depended on the height of antenna AND CONTROL to be used as a repeater (this is disinstallation on the towers. Because of RECLOSERS AND cussed later). Uniteds 3,500 square mile rolling terDeciding on a communications ritory, installation of many master and TRANSMISSION protocol is also critical. Since United repeater sites was necessary. The next already had an existing traditional step was to install terminal radio SWITCHES WITHIN SCADA system using DNP, this deciequipment (slave radios) at the field sion was obvious. This decision affects devices to communicate with the THE SUBSTATION. the selection of the end devices as each master radios and repeaters as estabdevice must be equipped with a port lished. Because the newly selected conthat can communicate with the chosen trols included communications ports, the addition of a spread-spectrum radio and antenna (and protocol, which can be a substantial price adder with some associated hardware) was all that was needed at the pole products. Each device will have a limited set of data and where the device was installed. The additional cost is controls available through the chosen protocol, so this approximately US$1,250 per location. After the commu- must be carefully considered in device and protocol selecnication network and remotes are physically installed, it is tion. DNP has provided United with the protocol flexibilsimply a matter of optimizing the communications ity it requires and is widely used in the industry. Aside from the hardware and software technology through configuration settings. United had considered a cost-savings opportunity when several devices were near to requirements, there is another major consideration in develeach other. This consisted of using a single radio and creat- oping a DA network. Like any new technology implemening a fiber-optic connection to all nearby devices. However, tation, there is an ongoing need for human resources to the cost of the fiber-optic cable and its installation was continue to maintain and extend the DA network into the high enough to keep us from deploying this strategy future. Once the benefits of DA are realized by the operaexcept at a few locations. Overall, United found that care- tions side of a utility, there will be a demand to automate ful placement of DA allowed for the possibility of a rela- the entire existing system and any new devices added in the tively quick return on investment when considering the future. The availability of this functionality will be expected system-wide but existing resources might not be benefits that will be described hereafter. able to accomplish this adequately. Fortunately, existing Lessons from Development, United technical staff have been trained and used to perSetup, and Installation form all of the necessary functions after the initial design parameters were established and official procedures and guidelines were documented. Before a project of this nature Project Development As previously mentioned, a key decision point in the is undertaken, careful consideration should be made of the development of the project was determining a means of available technical staff needed to support it. Additional communication to the remote devices. Without having a support is paramount from all vendors involved in the portion of the communications backbone already in place, project and should be a major consideration in product the project implementation would have been difficult to selection. Each vendor should have particular expertise with justify. The project focused on the most economical way their product and the chosen communications protocol. to extend the existing network to the remote device locations. In the short run at least, licensed radios would System Setup have been too costly and time consuming to install and Since the DA communication system was an extension of maintain. Spread spectrum was an affordable, proven the existing network, the location of the master radios was technology that was exempt from the Federal Communi- limited to tower locations (typically at substations or cations Commission (FCC) licensing process. While the microwave tower locations) that had microwave radio frequency hopping nature of spread spectrum provides a channel capacity back to the headquarters office where the measure of noise immunity, the drawback is that unli- SCADA master is located. It was decided that new comcensed radios have low power output that can limit their munication lines would be configured in the SCADA range. In addition, their low cost and relatively simple master, using DNP, to isolate the DA communications setup can lead to a proliferation of spread-spectrum radios from the substation SCADA communications. In this way, throughout the service territory that can introduce inter- critical substation and transmission operations would not ference issues over time. It should be noted, however, that be compromised by problems on the DA system. The even licensed radios can experience interference, and iden- communication lines were configured to operate at 9,600 tifying and resolving it is not straightforward. United baud based on a tradeoff between response time and error



rate. Obviously, the more remote terminal units (RTUs) polled on a particular communication line the longer the response time will be. Ultimately, with as many as 22 RTUs on some of Uniteds DA communication lines, response times of more than 1 min can be expected from events in the field, but responses to controls are still usually less than 7 s with the fast scan capability of the SCADA master. Limiting the number of RTUs on the communication line is essentially a matter of the availability or cost of the new towers, radios, and any additional SCADA master capacity required. To date, United has 100 DA RTUs communicating on eight communication lines (see portion of network in Figure 1). Each of the DA communication lines can also be switched from the SCADA master and its normal polling cycle (scan task) to a laptop or computer equipped with the programming software specific to each device. A custom serial logic switch was developed in house at United for this purpose. After switching, the radio network can be used for remote programming changes, event file downloads, etc. This added functionality has obvious advantages but is somewhat cumbersome because of the 9,600 baud

rate limitation. The other disadvantage is that, in this mode, SCADA monitoring and control of the DA devices is disabled. Since the goal of DA is inherently to monitor and control devices remote from the substation, radio coverage of the entire service territory is ideal. At the 900-MHz frequency band, the signal path is essentially line of sight, with some ability to bend obliquely around obstacles and through sparse foliage. At some locations with agreeable terrain, radio hops of up to 20 mi have been obtained. While eight communication lines were configured with associated master radios, full radio coverage of the system was not possible with the existing network. A radio path analysis using topographic mapping software revealed where communication obstacles existed, resulting in the addition of four repeater sites. Essentially, this consists of two radios at the repeater site connected back to back, with a Yagi antenna looking back to the master radio and either an omnidirectional or Yagi antenna picking up the RTUs in the vicinity of the repeater site as necessary. The addition of repeaters creates more latency in the response time of the communication line and introduces more

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complexity to the system, but overall, it is an economic solution for hard to reach locations. Newer radios on the market today have the repeater functionality built in, so only an additional antenna system is required. With this architecture and equipment selection, United has been satisfied with the overall DA system performance. While DA RTUs tend to be less stable than the substation RTUs, availability of more than 94% has been realized in Uniteds service area since benchmarking of DA RTU availability recently began.

Installation of the master radios and omnidirectional antennas at the substations and microwave tower sites was performed by Brazos. The antennas were installed at the top of existing towers or poles, ranging 12320 ft, which is a major determinant in the quality of system coverage. Remote radios and repeaters were installed by United, with antennas mounted at least 1 ft below the neutral, keeping it in the communication space and eliminating the need for a bucket truck or lineman. Typically, a 15-ft ladder is used to install the remote antenna as high on the pole as possible (see Figure 2). By installing the antenna on a 1020 ft section of steel conduit, much of the construction can be done in the shop that allows for quick installation in the field. A few feet of additional height at the remote site is of little benefit, as the limitation is usually due to topography on the order of 50 ft or more according to path profiles. A more common problem is foliage in the near vicinity of the remote antenna, which can vary significantly with the seasons. Vegetation clearance and maintenance is often required at these sites. Before a new DA RTU is installed, a path profile is studied to determine whether communication to the site is even possible (see Figure 3). At existing device locations, this can be very problematic if topography was not a consideration at the time of the site selection. With new device installations, careful consideration is given to the location so that major topographic obstacles are avoided. After a site is proposed, a remote radio installed in a vehicle equipped with a magnet-mounted omnidirectional antenna is used to measure the available signal at the location. A signal of 95 dB or greater (as measured by the radio itself) is usually necessary for adequate communication, so the vehicle mounted radio and antenna can be used to look for a suitable location in the area. The actual signal with the pole-mounted Yagi antenna will be a few decibel higher than with the magnet-mounted omniantenna, so the test radio provides a worst-case scenario for site selection. The remote radios are installed in the end devices and are powered by the control. An RS-232 cable is used to connect the radio to a port on the control. Flexible copper braid coaxial cable from the remote radio to the antenna is more manageable and durable than the rigid copper type, while only sacrificing 1 or 2 dB at this length. Lightning arrestors are optional between the coax and the radio, but United has experienced few failures without them. Initially, six-element Yagi antennas were used, but now an 18-element Yagi is often needed as it will boost the signal by several decibel and is significantly more directional (minimizing interference).

Initially, there was some concern about using a copper connection between the radios and the devices communication ports. For this reason, United specified fiber-optic ports in all of the DA controls in the event that electrical isolation was deemed necessary in the future. So far, United has not experienced a single lightning-induced communication failure, so the additional expense of fiber-optic modems and associated materials is not necessary at this time. The final steps in the installation are SCADA master and RTU programming followed by testing and commissioning. As previously stated, vendor expertise is critical in the initial programming and point mapping from each end device to the SCADA master. United benefited greatly from the experience of Brazos technical staff in


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The Cooper control uses a 24-V dc power supply, but unfortunately, the MDS radios require 12-V dc, so a dcdc converter had to be added in the control (see Figure 4). The converter comes at an additional cost and adds another point of failure, although it has not been an issue for United. Overall, United is very satisfied with the performance of the Form 5 control configured for DA. The obvious benefit to automating downline reclosers is the ability to monitor and remotely control the device. Through SCADA, fault information can be observed through each reclose attempt to lockout. This information is invaluable in locating permanent faults and investigating causes of temporary faults such as vegetation. Restoration is much quicker as the recloser can be closed remotely once repairs are made. 4 Another benefit is the ability to change settings reCooper Form 5 Recloser control with radio. motely. Industry studies have shown that more than 80% of faults are temporary in nature [1]. Moreover, arc deionSCADA master programming, and once templates were ization times for these faults are typically on the order of a established, it became a rote process to program additional few cycles [2]. Subsequent studies on actual faults by devices. With procedures established, the only item that United have confirmed these results. With these facts in normally changes on new RTUs is the address, although mind, United has created alternate trip settings that can be occasionally other communication settings such as trans- used during lightning storms when temporary faults are mit and clear-to-send delays or baud rate have to be likely. During normal weather, a fuse-blowing coordinaadjusted in the radio or RTU. As should be standard tion philosophy is used in the settings, while during operating procedure, a full SCADA functionality test is storms, a fuse-saving philosophy is more appropriate. Dispatchers can easily enable the alternate settings via SCADA performed before the end device is commissioned. It is worth mentioning that part of programming whenever storms are looming, resulting in improved sysrequires developing an RTU numbering scheme. Al- tem reliability. Actual study results from capturing fault though this seems elementary, with many different types data over a two-year period are shown in Table 1. Additionof devices on the DA system, it is helpful to develop a ally, fault current is reported by each device as it occurs. numbering scheme that can assist with system setup, This data can be used by fault-location algorithms to determaintenance, and troubleshooting. For example, United mine potential fault locations for line crews, as will be disuses a three-digit numbering scheme as follows: 000299 cussed later in this review. While performing an arc-flash hazard assessment, are reclosers, 300499 are regulators, 500699 are capacitors, 700899 are switches, and 900999 are meters. The United realized that remotely changing the recloser to the three-digit numbering scheme was a limitation of the hot-line tag setting was a convenient way to reduce availSCADA master station. Other numbering conventions are able arc-flash energy while employees are working on the also suitable and should be considered before program- lines. The ability to make this change in downline devices greatly improves reliability compared with changing it in ming begins. the substation recloser, as fewer customers are affected in Benefits and Pitfalls by Device Class the event of an accidental trip. In some cases on long feeders at United, the hot-line tag setting in the downline recloser is the only way to safely reduce arc-flash energy. Reclosers United standardized on the Cooper Form 5 recloser con- The problem with remotely enabling the hot-line tag featrol in the late 1990s and still relies on this control today. ture is that the tag can only be removed in the same manThere were initial problems with implementing DNP, ner it was placed, i.e., locally or remotely. If a dispatcher but eventually those were resolved with the manufacturer. enables hot-line tag remotely, and then the DA communications goes down for some reason, the lineman in the field has no way to remove the tag manually when work TABLE 1. ALTERNATE TRIP ANALYSIS WITH STORM SETTINGS ENABLED. is complete. The recloser will remain 2004 2005 Curve in hot-line tag mode until communiTotal trips 370 128 cations are restored, creating a situation where reliability could be Cleared by fast curve 96% 94% reduced. The only other remedy is to Cleared in one trip 82% 74% Fast, 0.3-s reclose take a laptop to the site to change the setting through the SCADA commuCleared in two trips 14% 20% Fast, 2-s reclose nications port of the device. Cleared in three trips 1% 4% Slow, 5-s reclose The ability to log load information from downline reclosers is another Lockout 3% 1% Slow, lockout benefit of DA. These data are archived


in the same manner as substation load data and thus are readily available for importing into Milsoft as load-control point data. The result is a more accurate load allocation in the system model under study. One lesson learned is the impact that analog dead-band settings in the recloser control can have on communications. If the dead band is too narrow, too much data will be reported, and the communications line could get bogged down. Obviously, a dead band that is too wide will not be as accurate when trying to determine coincident peaks, as the data may remain unchanged for hours until the dead band is exceeded. This value may need to be adjusted until a compromise is reached.


in some ways cancel the effects of voltage reduction. With DA on downline regulators, a voltage reduction scheme can be implemented on the entire feeder to maximize the benefits. As with reclosers, data collection at the regulator locations can be used for system modeling purposes. With the data stored on the SCADA master station, the DA device becomes a useful load-allocation tool for validating tap position, current, and voltage at the regulator location at the time of the system peak.

At the same time United settled on the Form 5 recloser control, the Cooper CL-5 was chosen as the standard regulator control. In developing its DA strategy, at first, United was lacking a compelling reason to move forward with implementing DA at regulator locations. Within a year, however, a customer with a major load for United requested a reconfiguration that would require rework of some downline regulators. This rework placed regulators in series with a large portion of the customers load. Because of the key nature of this load, United needed to remotely monitor and potentially control the regulators serving the facility. Along with this reconfiguration, primary metering was installed, which was also added to the DA system, as will be discussed later in this review. With the reliability and voltage-support requirement, it was clear that SCADA alarms at various voltage levels were needed. As previously mentioned, this was a location where three regulator controls were in close proximity to each other. It made sense to use a single radio with the controls linked together with fiber optic cable. It was a challenge to get the timing and addressing to work correctly with the single remote radio communicating with three devices. With a DNP test set, consisting of a laptop equipped with software that can monitor messages sent and received, and the appropriate cabling, the issues were eventually resolved. A protocol test set is highly recommended in deployment and maintenance of a communications/ SCADA/DA system. With communications working properly, alarms were enabled on SCADA to allow remote monitoring for the key load. Within another year, United was required to upgrade a metering point that was serving approximately 220 KW of connected peak load to more than 5,000 KW of connected peak load. Because of the size of the load and the fact that it was in a very rural area, significant regulation was needed. Because of the magnitude of the load involved, United regards voltage regulation at a metering point in the same way as at a substation, so it made sense to add this site to the SCADA/DA system. Another potential benefit to installing DA on regulators that United has not yet taken advantage of is to assist in voltage reduction schemes. When voltage reduction schemes are used at the station level, downline regulation tends to compensate and

Soon after standardizing on recloser and regulator controls, United was faced with upgrading an aging fleet of Sangamo temperature-based capacitor controls. Knowing that DA was the future for United, research was performed to identify and select the best control for application on Uniteds switched capacitor banks. After much deliberation, United chose the Energyline IntelliCAP Plus SCADA/DAready capacitor control. The control setup using DNP was very simple, and the control cabinet was designed for easy mounting of the DA system radio (see Figure 5). At the time of control selection, there was really no compelling need for adding capacitors to the DA system. Within a few years after the selection of the control, the independent system operator of Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), enacted reactive power requirements. As a result, United began the process of integrating several capacitor controls into the DA system, which proved to be very straightforward. As before, having the capacitor control data available was very useful with load allocation in the system model. The ability to verify the status of individual banks that were placed online was also useful for proactively controlling power factor and can be used for early detection of blown fuses. However, after carefully evaluating the cost of implementation in light of the fact that there is no regulatory financial penalty to reactive power issues at this time, the return on investment for


Energy-line capacitor control with radio.



operate the switch and reclosers in the appropriate sequence to restore power IN SOME CASES, to unfaulted segments within minutes. This process has been followed successTHE HOT-LINE TAG fully many times since implementation. Further, a few switches were SETTING IN THE placed on very long feeders to allow DOWNLINE sectionalizing where needed in fault situations, which is another potential RECLOSER IS THE application. One consideration when setting up ONLY WAY TO DA on switches is the power supply Switches for the controls. If controls are ac It can be said that the success of DA at SAFELY REDUCE powered only, they may or may not be United led to more DA at United. As available to work in all switching sceDA installations on the many downline ARC-FLASH narios, which United failed to identify recloser controls across the system were ENERGY. in every circumstance. Subsequently, completed, United found it convenient United changed its recloser and conto remotely switch these devices in trols specification to require dc operastorm situations. Many of these reclosers were on feeders that meet at normally open points tion, a standard that is highly recommended if DA is a equipped with manual switches. Because of Uniteds plan- future consideration. Another important consideration ning standards, in many cases, there is significant line with this functionality is total safety. It is imperative for capacity at feeder open points, making it possible to transfer all communications during the switching process to be at least a portion of the feeder load to a different substation. clear. Training must occur regularly with line crews to With midpoint reclosers being automated, it was obvious ensure the understanding of what can happen and what that an automated switch with DA added at the open point needs to be communicated during SCADA/DA switching could be a welcome tool. After appropriate analysis, United operations. Failure in this area can lead to serious consefound it possible to implement an automated solution for quences for all involved and must not be taken lightly. less than US$10,000 per location. At that time, approxi- Another consideration is the need to continually evaluate mately nine locations were determined to be good candi- the circuit transfer capability of the switched feeders as the dates for either normally open or closed switch points. distribution system changes at both summer and winter United researched several switch vendors, and based on past peak conditions. Not doing so could lead to a coordination experience, a main objective was to limit the complexity of failure or overload due to a switching operation during linkages to the motor operator at the base of the pole. Ulti- power restoration, which is the most inopportune time to mately, the S&C Omnirupter switch was selected with an have to deal with such an issue. Finally, a comment should be made concerning the Energyline switch control (see Figure 6). The switch control supported DNP and integrated return on investment of SCADA/DA controlled switches. well with the existing DA system. The implementation The switch selected and installed by United has been diswas successful to the point where United currently has 11 continued by the manufacturer. Currently available techswitches in service. It is very important to consider com- nologies, while providing more data functionality than munications service reliability when placing SCADA- before, decrease the return on investment because of their controlled switching schemes. When a fault does occur, a increased cost. Justifying remotely operated switches for dispatcher can easily see the connectivity-based schematic United is much more difficult from a financial perspective on the master station and, with necessary approval, at this point in time. automating capacitor controls was not acceptable. Uniteds standard annual inspection and maintenance programs are sufficient under the current conditions. However, United will continue to place SCADA/DA ready controls at capacitor locations in preparation for future reactive power requirements that could introduce opportunities for attractive returns on investment.


Energy-line switch control with radio.

United also found the need for several meters to be integrated into the DA system so that metering information could be viewed at the SCADA master station. After reviewing the metering options available, United chose Transdata as the manufacturer to fulfill this need. DA was first deployed at two primary meter locations feeding the key account that was mentioned earlier. Having interval load data at these sites improved the accuracy of load allocation in the system model, something that can be troublesome with large downline loads. Further, continuous monitoring of voltage and current at the plant was valuable from a power quality standpoint. This initial experience was relied on later when setting up the metering point discussed previously. Using the meter to monitor the 5,000 KW load at this metering point provided United with the same SCADA information normally seen

at the substation level. With DA integration on the metering, regulators, and reclosers, this location looks virtually like a substation from a SCADA point of view.
SCADA and Outage Management

United chose to use a single master station for traditional SCADA and DA operation. United believes one reason it has been successful in the training, operation, and maintenance of these systems is because of the uniformity and consistency that using the same master station provides. Implementing control technologies that support DNP have allowed for a relatively seamless integration between the two systems, making it transparent to the SCADA operator. On the other hand, communication lines have been intentionally separated to keep the less reliable DA system from interfering with the traditional SCADA system. Having both SCADA and DA device status has proven invaluable to the outage management process, as the grouping algorithms are optimized with the additional downline information. Having immediate downline data access and control capabilities after a fault delivers a quantum leap in system reliability. With downline fault information, United is able to more quickly make control decisions. Often the recloser is immediately placed in one shot after a lockout then successfully reclosed, avoiding a major outage event. There are times when reclosing after a lockout without patrolling the line is not appropriate, so procedures should be developed for different circumstances. The Future A creative distribution engineer can probably think of a variety of other DA applications that can use the communications pipe between field devices and operations headquarters. With technology continuing to improve, more opportunities will present themselves for further application of DA devices and the resulting data they provide. United already has plans to implement the fault location functionality of the recloser controls that are currently in use. Although the fault location information is currently available through SCADA, further analysis and refinement of the data is needed before it can be relied on for accuracy. For example, source and line impedance entered in the control or in the Milsoft model must be continuously updated for location accuracy. The processes necessary for universal application of fault locating have yet to be defined at United. United is at present considering its next generation of recloser control technology. Some of the key expectations will be true sequence-of-event recording, GPS clock synchronization, event oscillography, custom programming, and secure Internet protocol (IP) communications support. Similar to the way DA unfolded at United, next generation controls devices other than reclosers will likely be considered as the need arises. United is embarking on a new SCADA master station and SCADA/DA communications upgrade project. The software portion of this upgrade is expected to support many of the next-generation control features as well as support data transfer to Uniteds OMS through a Multispeak interface. This

automated interface will improve dispatch efficiency, especially during heavy storm situations. United is also in the process of considering adding fault indicators with remote reporting capability in the near future. Several products are now on the market that will allow at least fault status to be reported in various ways back to the office. Uniteds preliminary review seems to indicate that such devices could be integrated into the existing SCADA master station, maintaining the continuity and associated benefits as with the other DA devices. United plans to deploy these fault indicators on major feeders at normally closed switch locations so that in the event of a fault, field personnel are dispatched to the optimum sectionalizing location. Discussions with an investor-owned utility that uses fault indication without the remote capability seem to suggest that this could be beneficial. If the communications can be implemented quickly and affordably, the return on investment may urge United to test and potentially implement this technology. Finally, United will soon need to make a decision on the future of the DA communication network. As the existing SCADA system is replaced and current radios near obsolescence, United is investigating available technologies with an eye toward implementing DNP at higher bandwidths using secured transmission control protocol TCP/IP. This upgrade will take advantage of the next generation controls that have this capability. Radios are also on the market that meet these requirements and also offer mesh capability that could drastically improve communications reliability. For this functionality to become a reality, licensed radios will most likely be considered in future. Conclusions It is the intent of this review to demonstrate some of the benefits of distribution system automation. It should be clear through the evidence presented that United has been successful at implementing DA technologies in several ways to benefit its members. In fact, because of this success, United is proactively pursuing newer technologies for its future DA plans. In so doing, United will continue finding ways to keep reliability, availability, and overall member satisfaction at the highest level of industry standards. References
[1] J. S. Parsons and H. G. Barnett, Distribution systems, in Electrical Transmission and Distribution Reference Book, 5th ed. Raleigh, NC: ABB Power T&D Company Inc., 1997, p. 679. [2] J. E. Barkle Jr. and R. L. Tremaine, Power-system stability: Basic elements of theory and application, in Electrical Transmission and Distribution Reference Book, 5th ed. Raleigh, NC: ABB Power T&D Company Inc., 1997, p. 471.


Cameron L. Smallwood ( and Jared Wennermark are with United Cooperative Services in Cleburne, Texas. Smallwood is a Senior Member of the IEEE. This article first appeared as The Benefits of Distribution Automation to a Rural Electric Cooperative at the 2009 IEEE Rural Electric Power Conference.