It was the best part of my professional career.
One of the beautiful things about creativity is the phenomenon of seeing an idea that originated in the mind—an intangible substance—materialize into reality. That is the reward of the inventor.
While creativity is easily recognizable in a sculpture, a painting, or a novel, it has no limitations. It seeps into every facet of life, even if it’s not obvious. Creativity is how a scientist arrives at the next ground-breaking theory. It’s there in the way a person designs their garden; the moment of inspiration for a new recipe; and the next-generation car, plane, or spaceship model.
And for power system engineers? Creativity is how every solution for every power system comes into being. Power system designs aren’t black and white. There are regulations and protocols and customer requests and other requirements that force engineers to create a design that not only fits those constraints, but that is also efficient and reliable.
For Georgia, GSE needed a solution to trip within 100 ms, integrate quickly and easily into their existing infrastructure, and work with the industry’s communications protocols. The combined creativity of SEL engineers and GSE operators resulted in both emergency and long-term solutions that fulfilled and exceeded the original requirements.
Technical Group Manager, Special Protection Systems,
The Special Protection Systems team commissioned Georgia’s new RAS system the summer of 2014. The difference was immediately quantifiable and real. From the National Control Center, the RAS controller evaluates the entire GSE power system, communicates with other devices, monitors voltage levels and power flows, and checks for faults every 2 ms. In other words, the RAS system is ready to take an action to save the country from a blackout 500 times a second—and it has, several times a year since installation.
“I just recently received a bunch of event records, and I was really surprised because the system had operated something like four times in eleven days, which is really a lot,” said Clark. “So I asked my contact at GSE and he said they had just experienced really heavy snow falls that caused the line from Russia to fail a few times, which then caused the RAS system to take action. In all likelihood, those events would have been much larger and probably would have blacked out the whole country if not for the RAS system.”
When it comes to protecting critical infrastructure like the GSE power system, speed is critical, but the communications network is paramount. Relays won’t trip if they don’t receive the messages.
“The ICON network became the heartbeat—the pulse—between the distributed controllers in the substations and our centralized RAS controller,” said Dolezilek.
That heartbeat also means data and diagnostics. All the RAS devices constantly run self-tests to communicate the health, behavior, and performance of the power system and each device within it. Any time there’s a fault or other event, the SEL devices automatically generate detailed, precise event reports for operators to review.
“Everything’s synchronized, so GSE can pull the event data from any relay in the system and know exactly what happened down to the millisecond,” said Clark. “They can see what happened, when it happened, why it happened, and what the system response was. With these devices, they can see—they know—everything.”
From widespread blackouts to emergency control to true management, GSE has been taking Georgia into a very different future than the past they’ve left behind.
It’s important to remember that not too long ago, most of Georgia’s power system consisted of outdated, electromechanical relays. However, with the implementation of the RAS system, GSE recognized the value in continuing to modernize their power system, spurring a new project to rehabilitate their substations.
In 2014, GSE and SEL began updating ten of the most critical substations in the Georgian power system. Feeder by feeder, they replaced old, electromechanical relays with new, digital microprocessor relays that significantly reduce the likelihood of malfunctions and false trips. All of these devices are now accessible for supervision and control from the National Control Center, rather than operators having to be physically onsite. It’s a transition that saves GSE money, increases their system functionality and reliability, and facilitates easier device maintenance.
One year later and one year ahead of schedule, in the summer of 2015, an overwhelming majority of GSE substations were transformed into state-of-the-art facilities. That same year, SEL opened a branch office in Georgia to provide support, expansion, and training services for GSE.
“There are just so many opportunities that are coming from this, so many modernization projects Georgia is taking advantage of now,” said Dolezilek.
One of the new opportunities GSE started using is traveling-wave fault location, an innovative technology from SEL that locates power system faults within one tower span. With the mountainous, rocky terrain between transmission towers and substations in Georgia, knowing exactly where the fault is located is especially helpful for the operators who have to fix it and for the citizens, whose power is restored that much faster.
GSE also started monitoring all of their transmission lines with synchrophasor solutions from SEL. They’ve started looking into power oscillation detection to increase system stability. They’ve taken full advantage of the SEL-5078-2 synchroWAVe Central Software, which shows the frequency, current, and voltage of the system as well as the status of circuit breakers. The software collects and archives all of this information so that, at any point, GSE operators can reference current and historical data about their power system.
SEL engineers also taught GSE operators to configure their communications nodes so that they could expand their network by themselves if needed.
In 2017, GSE further upgraded their power system’s capabilities with the addition of several SEL-735 Power Quality and Revenue Meters, chosen for their memory capabilities, harmonic recording, and data analysis.
“GSE has been a very good customer of ours,” said Rodas. “They understand the new technology, they understand the value. As an engineer, I felt very good with what we accomplished.”
For Georgia, the value of new technology goes beyond simply reducing the number of blackouts. They are now an ISO 9001:2008-certified company, which means they meet certain international quality standards for continuous improvement and superior performance in all aspects of business.
As of 2014, GSE became an authorized Transmission System Operator, giving them the power to operate and plan for the development of the entire transmission grid in Georgia. They are able to transfer energy between Georgia and Turkey because of their new 700 MW, high-voltage dc converter station and the surrounding 500/400 kV lines. The addition of the converter station led to 278 million kWh transmitted in 2014.
GSE was also awarded the Best IT Solution for Business in 2014 for the successful implementation of their SCADA and telecommunications systems.
Because of these improvements, GSE has been a significant factor in the country’s overall progression in the last decade.
Among other factors, the power system reliability improvements contributed to a rise in the country’s overall Human Development Index (HDI), which is a comparative measure of life expectancy, education, and standard of living. Based on HDI values, countries are separated into either low, medium, high, or very-high human development categories.
According to data from the United Nations and World Bank, the availability of electricity can impact a country’s HDI; generally, the higher a country’s annual per capita electricity consumption, the higher its HDI.
Over 15 years ago, Georgia’s HDI was 0.672, ranking Georgia in the medium human development category. Now, that value has risen more than 12 percent to 0.754, moving the country into the high human development category.
Electric power might not be something that everyone thinks about on a daily basis, but its effect is always there, whether you’re aware of it or not.
“There are few projects that really stand out for me, and this is one of them,” said Ravikumar. “It was the best part of my professional career.”
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