Taking a Phased Approach Makes RTU and SCADA System Upgrades Seamless and Cost-Effective

Glades Electric Cooperative, a 16-substation distribution cooperative that serves the power needs of four counties in Southern Florida with over 2700 miles of power lines and 17,000 meters, recently faced a challenge as they began their process of replacing their RTU and SCADA networks. Despite being installed relatively recently in 2015, the current RTUs were not meeting Glades’ reliability requirements.

“We were experiencing partial loss of function in one of our substations,” said Jose Cordova, Engineering Operations Manager at Glades. “One of the RTUs had four feeders, and there were times they would not respond to commands consistently. We also had a recloser that was not operating properly.”

Cordova attended a user symposium hosted by a leading substation automation provider, Pennsylvania-based NovaTech Automation, where he was introduced to the company’s Orion RTUs and SCADA systems.

“I attended a two-day class that included a demonstration of their system,” said Cordova. “I was able to work with some of their equipment and configure it, which was very informative. Having that kind of hands-on experience and access to product information enabled us to complete a thorough evaluation. One of the things we were impressed with was the intuitiveness of the Orion web interface.”

Glades chose to test an Orion RTU and approached the replacement of their system in a phased, step-by-step approach beginning with the replacement of a single RTU. The idea was to connect an Orion RTU to their existing SCADA system to evaluate its performance and compatibility before making a more significant investment.

“We took advantage of the Orion RTU’s integrated online connectivity to serve up communications more efficiently,” said Cordova. “By typing the IP address of the new RTU, we could directly access it through a web browser to see the substation online.”

Based on this initial phase, Glades decided to move forward with a second RTU implementation.

About the same time, the second RTU was delivered to the next network location, a transmission station, the existing SCADA top-end failed unexpectedly, causing Glades to lose situational awareness at that location temporarily. Chronic technical support response time issues with the existing vendor-led Glades to decide to upgrade their entire system at this point – 16 substations and their SCADA top-end.

NovaTech addressed the need for situational awareness of the field through the SCADA system configuration. Devices in the substation serve up their own data on a graphic view. A top-end unit in the office governs all these units and allows a single viewpoint of the network without entering the IP address of each substation. To further improve efficiency, NovaTech installed an Orion SCADA server in the Glades’ IT room to act as a hub or data concentrator.  

Today, Glades is about halfway through their co-op wide RTU replacement having installed Orion units at seven of their substations together with a data concentrator. When completed, they will have replaced their RTUs in all 16 substations.

For more information about NovaTech Automation and the Orion family of substation automation solutions, visit: www.novatechautomation.com.

Taking a Phased Approach Makes RTU and SCADA System Upgrades Seamless and Cost-Effective

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