Automation Unconstrained: Absolute Control

An Exploration into Distributed IEC 61499 Algorithms in Recloser Controllers

Press Release

April 2017
NOJA Power recloser integrated into the substation control system

NOJA Power recloser integrated into the substation control system

Many years ago, in the dawn of the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) age, control systems engineers dreamed of a platform wherein their design efforts could be effortlessly passed from controller to controller. Despite many years of automation, a universally adoptable standard has eluded the systems engineer. Progression through standards has been rapidly accelerated through the course of the last few decades, driven by the dramatic proliferation and penetration of general computer networking. Experts have been molded in a generation which has witnessed their entire adult lives around the effects of computers. This level of understanding of systems networking, in a case of different systems playing nicely together, is the inspiration for the definition of the IEC 61499 Standard. For the very first time, this technology has been made available in the realms of auto-reclosers, as the NOJA Power RC10 Recloser Controller debuts this technology.

Founded in the heartlands of industrial control, IEC 61499 is an event based PLC standard for control design aimed at portability and simplicity. Driven by the requirement that function block based applications can be developed and deployed across multiple platforms, the control systems engineer has finally been granted access to portability. Running on an IP network backbone, suddenly these control systems engineers not only have the capacity to design local controls within a single controller, but are given the freedom to deploy an application across an entire network. This function has been deployed in the NOJA Power RC10 controller and it has been called Smart Grid Automation but in essence SGA is IEC 61499 in a recloser disguise.

IEC 61499 allows for publishing and subscribing to information across an entire network. From a NOJA Power RC10 perspective, controllers are now equipped with the capacity to interact with each other in a complete automation scheme. If a utility engineer wanted to interlock a protection group setting across an entire feeder worth of reclosers, a single change could be mirrored by each device along the network. If a specific need for fire risk mitigation settings arose on a particular day, a single change at one device could be automated to propagate through all devices in a secure, verified network. By isolating small IP networks of reclosers away from the internet and automating routine tasks, utilities greatly reduce the scope for risk as control need only be designed once and executed across a controlled area.

Finally, SGA applications need not be constrained to the NOJA Power RC10 recloser controller itself or reclosers in general either. The key mantra of IEC 61499 is portability, which also implies that an RC10 can now speak the same language as any other device which supports IEC 61499. Integration into complex control systems, substation design or PLC plant automation is entirely within the realms of possibility today. If a manufacturing plant built on IEC 61499 PLC control demands an increase to supplied energy power, the PLC could issue a command to the alternative supply feeder recloser outside the facility to close and increase power supply to the network. If a manufacturer senses a mechanical fault within the PLC system on their production line an emergency trip command could be sent to this very same recloser outside the building to mitigate risk of equipment damage. At the very least, energy usage data can be collected from the recloser outside the building, which can be published to the PLC system inside the building for manufacturing performance information.

Whilst NOJA Power has been a first-mover in the deployment of IEC 61499 in smart grid equipment, it would be naïve to think that they would be the last. Given the extensive support, documentation and literature available from the IEC 61499 user group for this standard it would be logical that other intelligent network devices begin to utilise this capability. The beauty of the implementation results in greater interoperability, where simple function blocks can interact with each other over a Local Area Network. This standard allows for a greater list of equipment to work together to develop cross-platform automation. The integration capabilities are extensive, where intelligent metering devices could share information with upstream breakers, or where motor control centers could share information with the upstream supply for harmonic monitoring or intelligent current inrush restraint.

“We would like to congratulate the IEC 61499 User Group for their vision to provide manufacturers with an automation and control platform which can be adopted to provide distributed automation,” says NOJA Power Group Managing Director Neil O’Sullivan. “The level of portability and interoperability between multiple intelligent network devices unlocks a far greater scope of control and design capability for engineers in the field. With such a clearly defined standard, integration of IEC 61499 based automation is greatly simplified across complex networks of control.”

To date, the SGA implementations are only starting to scratch the surface of what is possible with SGA and the NOJA Power RC10 controller. By giving the tools of design to the talented individuals who are at the coal face of protection and automation design a new era of innovation can be unlocked. The NOJA Power RC10’s implementation of IEC 61499 dubbed SGA is changing the face of network automation, providing reliability, risk mitigation and performance that control systems engineers have been dreaming of since time immemorial.