Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems have traditionally played a vital role by providing utilities with valuable knowledge and capabilities that are key to a primary business function – delivering power in a reliable and safe manner. A quality SCADA solution is central to effective operation of a utility’s most critical and costly distribution, transmission, and generation assets.

The challenging issues for SCADA systems and projects today are not the same as they were a few years ago. Today, there is much more importance placed on integration, use of new communication and network technologies, access to information by more users, and other purposes.

Today’s SCADA systems, in response to changing business needs, have added new functionalities and are aids for strategic advancements towards interactive, self healing smart grids of the future. A modern SCADA system is also a strategic investment which is a must-have for utilities of all sizes facing the challenges of the competitive market and increased levels of real time data exchange that comes with it (independent market operator, regional transmission operator, major C&I establishments, etc.). A well planned and implemented SCADA system not only helps utilities deliver power reliably and safely to their customers but also helps to lower costs and achieve higher customer satisfaction and retention.

Modern SCADA systems are already contributing and playing a key role at many utilities towards achieving:

  • New levels in electric grid reliability – increased revenue
  • Proactive problem detection and resolution – higher reliability
  • Meeting the mandated power quality requirements – increased customer satisfaction
  • Real time strategic decision making – cost reductions and increased revenue

Business case justification is stronger now than ever before even for lower density substations. The costs are declining with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products built to international standards as opposed to legacy proprietary solutions. Today, a utility can quickly gain these benefits by implementing a low cost SCADA system and evolving it as its business needs change.

The W4 Group has established a position in SCADA consulting services. Our hands-on team of professionals has many years of experience successfully designing, specifying, and implementing SCADA systems. We have team members who have worked in utility operation centers, in the vendor arena, and as consultants. We know the applications, resources, and constraints common to these organizations.

We provide services on all aspects of SCADA projects. Whether you are in the planning stage, implementation stage, or if you need to add a single application, replace an entire system, migrate a system, or put in your first SCADA system, the W4 Group has the experience and is ready to help. Call us, and we will explain how you can attain maximum benefits from a SCADA system.

Best practice services the W4 Group can provide include:

  • Evaluate existing systems and develop strategies to make improvements, replace aged or problematic systems, or meet new business objectives
  • Pre-screen possible bidders and prepare requests for information (RFIs)
  • Develop procurement specifications and a complete request for proposal (RFP) including terms and conditions
  • Participate in vendor evaluations and scoring
  • Seek technical and business clarifications with vendors and contribute to or lead contract negotiations
  • Provide hands-on system configuration and integration services (e.g., databases, displays, application integration, and intelligent electronic device (IED) integration)
  • Support functional and performance factory acceptance testing (FAT) and point-to-point checkout
  • Create site acceptance test (SAT) procedures and assist in performing SAT
  • Create, organize, and deliver custom SCADA training
  • Assist with substation automation applications
  • Assist with energy management system (EMS) applications
  • Assist with distribution management system (DMS) applications
  • TheW4 Group provides a full range of services to utilities on all aspects and phases of communication projects and initiatives
  • Present and lead a workshop to educate your team on a technology or address a more strategic objective

Substation Automation

Substation automation is a rapidly increasing area of interest and benefit to utilities. Substation automation goes beyond traditional SCADA to provide added capability and information that can further improve operations and maintenance, increase system and staff efficiencies, and leverage and defer major capital investments.

Applications and data of interest may include remote access to intelligent electronic devices (IED)/relay configuration ports, waveforms, event data, diagnostic information, video for security or equipment status assessment, metering, switching, volt/VAR management, and others.

Newer microprocessor-based relays and other intelligent devices provide unprecedented flexibility and rich functionality which, in turn, provide low cost monitoring analysis and diagnosis of electrical faults in the power network. Many newer IEDs provide optional network interfaces such as distributed network protocol (DNP) 3.0 over transmission control protocol (TCP)/internet protocol (IP)/Ethernet. Additionally, more utilities are gaining access to fiber optic based communications at some substation locations. Even more utilities are implementing IP wireless communication solutions to substations. IP networks to substations can greatly enhance substation automation possibilities and benefits such as primary equipment condition data, fault statistics, and data useful for preventive equipment maintenance.

The W4 Group is actively planning, designing, and implementing substation automation solutions. We have an experienced team that knows the vendors, products, design options, communication solutions, and implementation hurdles. We help our clients find the best approach, while managing costs and risks.

Services the W4 Group can provide include the following:

  • Designing your substation automation architecture including remote access, SCADA monitoring and control, event recording
  • Selecting the best RTU or data concentrator for your substation
  • Developing a business case for substation automation
  • Evaluating existing systems and developing strategies to migrate to new applications and technologies
  • Designing an overall solution to integrate substation equipment with communication systems and head-end applications
  • Specifying detailed designs and helping select all equipment from intelligent devices, substation servers, remote terminal units (RTUs), network switches, firewalls, wide area networks, head-end applications, and others
  • Estimating impacts on utility staff resources during implementation and post-implementation
  • Assisting with configuration, integration, and testing of the solution
  • Presenting a workshop to educate your team on a technology or address a more strategic objective involving substation automation

Substation Design

The W4 Group can assist you in meeting the challenges of increasing loads and the increased requirements for metering, control, and monitoring. We offer a wide range of substation and transmission facility design services, from 4.16 kV to 161 kV. Our staff has nationwide experience with substation and switchyard design for transmission and distribution systems. We can assist you through the entire design process, from initial system and facility review and planning, to detailed engineering, construction, and final commissioning.

The W4 Group substation design services include:

  • System and facility review and planning
  • Site selection, planning and permitting
  • Managing environmental issues
  • Preliminary conceptual layout and design
  • Project schedules and creating budgetary estimates
  • Transmission System interconnection requirements
  • Regulatory applications
  • Physical and equipment layout design
  • Soil resistivity testing and ground grid design
  • Detailed specification for material, equipment and construction
  • SCADA and communications design, integration and testing
  • Protective relaying design and relay programming
  • Metering system design
  • Capacitor VAR requirements and capacitor bank design
  • SPCC oil containment systems
  • Distributed and peak shaving generation interconnection
  • Substation project construction management
  • Project startup and commissioning
  • Project record “as-built” documentation
  • Substation design training

Power Distribution Design

The W4 Group coordinates with the serving utility to ensure that the electrical service to a facility is properly sized and coordinated. Power distribution design is extended from the electrical service entrance point to individual distribution panelboards, motor control centers, and other auxiliary systems. Power distribution is designed to meet the needs of each facility’s electrical load. Our staff provides electrical specifications, power one-line diagrams, panelboard schedules, and load flow analysis for all types of projects.

Part of the facility power distribution design includes evaluating voltage drop, harmonic distortion, and power factor within the electrical system. Specific electrical equipment selection and specification is made to ensure high power quality system performance.

Distribution Automation

Distribution automation (DA) optimizes a utility’s operations and directly improves the reliability of its distribution power system. Adding targeted distribution automation capabilities can be economical when they are an extension of your existing SCADA investments and the communication infrastructure. The success or failure of an automation program hinges on proper selection of equipment and communications to seamlessly integrate data into the utility control room. The key is to choose equipment that leverages your current assets wherever possible. With the latest in high speed communication technology, there has never been a better time for utilities to extend their automation beyond the substation.

The W4 Group team has years of experience designing a wide range of DA applications and systems for utilities, such as applications that include automatic sectionalizing and SCADA controlled switching. Known for our experience with automation projects and power delivery planning, the W4 Group understands both the benefits and the technology involved with DA.

Some of the services the W4 Group can provide include the following:

  • Evaluating the present status of the utility’s communications infrastructure and designing a DA system that leverages current assets to provide the most cost-effective solution
  • Providing project management support throughout the DA procurement and installation process with a focus on utility risk, cost, and time management; this process can include creating a unique project scope based on the utility’s needs, developing detailed Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP), preparing cost and benefit evaluations of each potential DA application, and creating equipment and services purchasing contracts that focus on protecting the utility’s interests
  • Providing hands-on system configuration and integration services that include independent third-party site acceptance testing (SAT) to verify that the system was delivered as advertised by the supplier
  • Providing repeatable software integration checklists verified in our on-site laboratory using the communications and automation equipment to be used in the DA project
  • Developing business models and designing volt/VAR applications that save the utility operational costs
  • Developing load management program designs and assisting in implementation
  • Presenting and leading workshops addressing DA applications

Most utilities want to reduce customer complaints, outage lengths, and crew response to outages. Until recently, DA has been thought to be beneficial only for large urban utilities. Today, with the advances made in communication media, DA can be successfully installed in many utilities, even rural systems, providing immediate payback in member satisfaction and reduced operating expenses. Utilities using DA can achieve:

  • Significant reduction outage time for customers with minimal circuit reconfiguration resulting in improved reliability indices
  • Automatic/semi-automatic feeder tie switches
  • Reduction in travel time to remote locations, reducing fuel and labor costs
  • Reduction in feeder patrol time to isolate faults
  • Information reported back to the office immediately, providing a clearer picture of what is happening in the field

The gauge of effectiveness of DA implementation is reflected in reduced outage times, reduced responses to outages, and the level of automation desired by the utility. In this area, a higher cost does not necessarily indicate a smarter purchase. The W4 Group can help unravel the mystery and make it work for you.

The experienced team at the W4 Group can assist your utility by:

  • Providing executive- and performance-level evaluation of DA solutions to determine the benefits for the utility and its members
  • Training utility personnel on specific DA operations and the best way to utilize the information retrieved by the system
  • Limiting the risk of capital equipment procurement by creating the specifications needed for a DA system, writing RFIs and RFPs with utility-favorable terms and conditions, evaluating vendor bids, timing implementation, and integration to other systems (Geographic Information System (GIS), SCADA, dispatch, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Outage Management System (OMS)); all in a manner that saves the utility money and time
  • Creating field-reproducible DA automation schemes
  • Providing experienced project management for integration and implementation of large scale projects that may be out of the scope of the utility personnel

Coordination and Arc Flash Studies

Electrical system protection and coordination studies are key components to ensuring that a facility’s electrical system is operating in a safe and reliable manner. Proper system coordination ensures that electrical faults are isolated within the electrical system such that shutdowns can be isolated to individual sections or portions of a facility’s electrical system.

The W4 Group also conducts arc flash studies to determine the available incident energy levels present at various points on the facility’s electrical system. Our staff works with clients to provide proper arc flash evaluation and training to ensure that appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) selection can be made to work safely on the electrical system.

Project Management

The W4 Group can help you meet the challenges of managing many projects. Projects often involve many parties with many areas of expertise. The W4 Group can assist in the project management role while also bringing knowledge of new technologies, their uses, and related vendors. The W4 group can help you finish your projects on time and within budget by monitoring the project during detailed design and construction, providing functional direction when necessary.

Examples where the W4 Group can assist in project management include:

  • Geographic information system (GIS) model creation and conversion.
  • Large line construction projects.
  • Projects involving new equipment, bidding, procurement, and installation.
  • Technology and communication projects.
  • Substation construction projects.
  • Maintenance or large rebuild projects.
  • Power quality investigations.
  • Projects needed due to new large customers.

Arc Flash Studies

The best approach to electrical safety is to work only on de-energized equipment that has been appropriately locked out and placed in a safe condition. However, due to equipment design or operational limitations, de-energizing equipment is not always possible. Therefore, OSHA standards in conjunction with NESC, NFPA 70E, and the NEC have adopted safe work standards and requirements for personnel safety when working on and near energized lines or equipment. As stated in NESC 2007, “As of January 2009, all employers must (a) have completed arc-exposure analysis (b) require employees to wear clothing or a clothing system with an appropriate arc rating.”

An arc flash exposure analysis should be performed in association with or as a continuation of a system protection and coordination study. Results of the protection study are used to calculate the incident energy for assigned working distances throughout the utility.

The W4 Group will work with you and the power supplier to collect the necessary system data required for the calculations. The W4 Group can assist with the following to meet code requirements:

  • Calculating cal/cm2 incident energy
  • Calculating and defining flash protection boundaries (up to 15 kV)
  • Modifying overcurrent device protection schemes to minimize fault current magnitude and duration resulting in lower arc flash

Motor Controls and Automation

Motor controls and automation projects vary from local start/stop station controls to fully automated and integrated control. The W4 Group works with controls and automation consultants to ensure that motor control systems are fully integrated to meet the needs of each client. Centralized motor control centers or individual motor starting and control equipment is designed to maximize system performance and efficiency.

Energy Efficiency Audits

The W4 Group has intimate knowledge of a facility’s electrical design which helps us assist our clients with energy efficiency studies and audits. These services include payback analysis, system efficiency reports, and system modification recommendations, along with specifications and construction documents for system modification implementation.

Power Quality Investigations for Utilities

Power quality is an increasingly important issue to all utilities. The term “power quality” can imply service reliability in terms of limiting permanent outages or momentary outages; and it can also mean maintaining acceptable voltage, minimizing flicker, or addressing issues of harmonics affecting sensitive equipment.

Our clients design and operate their systems to provide an acceptable level of power quality as well as work with their customers who have special requirements for power quality or service reliability. The W4 Group works with its clients to provide engineering advice to assess and improve power quality. This work can involve working directly with the end customer in a coordinated manner with the utility.

Services the W4 Group can provide include:

  • Install temporary power quality recording equipment.
  • Review and interpret data.
  • Identify power quality issues and causes.
  • Provide solutions to improve power quality.
  • Complete detailed designs.
  • Specify equipment for purchase.
  • Advise whether improvements are the responsibility of the utility or the customer.
  • Distribution (Power Factor Correction) Studies

Utilities today are faced with ever more stringent reactive requirements from wholesale power and transmission delivery providers. The need to increase system capacity, improve voltage profiles, increase efficiency, and reduce losses necessitates that utilities provide needed reactive compensation at economic voltage levels to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of existing facilities. Proper reactive power compensation is also at the core of Volt/VAR and Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) schemes.

The W4 Group can lead or assist your utility with preparing reactive compensation studies, commonly referred to as power factor correction studies, to:

  • Provide a review of the distribution system reactive power requirements
  • Determine the optimum location and size of capacitor installations to achieve desired goals
  • Determine the necessary mix of fixed and switched capacitor installations to provide only the necessary reactive compensation required during peak and low load times
  • Review potential issues with new and existing capacitor installations such as impacts on AMR/AMI systems, harmonics, interference with communication systems, and potential power quality concerns due to capacitor switching
  • Integrate the results with other planning studies, including Volt/VAr and CVR studies
  • Construction Management and Inspection

From the on-site pre-construction meeting with the labor contractor all the way through final inspection, the W4 Group can assist you with construction management. We can be on-site as often as needed to answer questions and to provide periodic inspection throughout the project to ensure that the final product is completed on time, on budget, and in accordance with your specifications. We can also provide as-built documentation, labor invoice approvals, and final project closeout documents as required.