Piloting 5G in distribution substation monitoring

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Portuguese power solutions provider Efacec has demonstrated the potential of 5G in real time monitoring and maintenance of LV substations.

The pilot, one of two use cases being implemented by Efacec as part of the European 5Growth initiative, was tested first in the lab and subsequently in a substation within the University of Aveiro on Portugal’s west coast.

The aim was to exploit two key features offered by 5G communication, low latency and high data throughput, in order to support real time telemetry and video streaming between a substation geographically dispersed from the control centre.

The pilot was carried out with Efacec equipment including GSmart smart controller and S3 LV sensor, along with an intrusion detector and HD camera in the substation. A 5G CPE in the substation provided connectivity to the University’s 5G stand-alone network to establish an end-to-end network.

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Simulation of an intrusion detection via an open door signal at the substation demonstrated an immediate alert on the control centre operator’s interface with simultaneous status updates in other interfaces and records. The operator was then able to track down the source of the event on the line diagram of the substation and initiate video streaming from inside the substation for visual assessment.

In a real world case, the operator could then pass on the information to the field team to enable a rapid and tailored response.

“It demonstrates that the control centre operator is able to get real time information on faults in the secondary substation via live telemetry of electrical equipment and video streaming from the substation interior,” says Efacec in a report on the pilot.

“This would not be possible with the current communication technology deployed which is most commonly GPRS with low throughput and higher latency than is required for real time remote operation.”

The second use case, which is yet to be reported, is focussed on critical signal and data exchange across smart metering and smart grid infrastructures. The aim is to demonstrate 5G connectivity of LV automation devices to the 5G stand-alone network in providing high availability and low end-to-end latency between the sensors in the network and the LV controller in the secondary substation.

5Growth is part of the EU’s 5G Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership programme, which is exploring the capabilities and enhancements of 5G in more than 90 projects in energy and other industry verticals. The 24-month project, which is in the closing stages, is focussed on technical and business evaluation of 5G technologies.