Richard Adams & Daniel Randles
The International Conference on Developments in Power System Protection (DPSP) organized by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) takes place every two years. The last one took place 9 – 12 March 2020, with PSC’s CEO Alex Boyd giving a keynote speech amid an uncertain situation due to Covid 19. This was to be the last physical conference organized by the IET as we all worked out how to adapt for what we thought would be the next few months.
Fast forward two years to DPSP 2022, which took place 7 – 10 March at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. This event was the first physical conference held by the IET since DPSP 2020! It was also their first hybrid session, with other events being virtual or an occasional recent in-person lecture, but not a multi-day event.
The protection community is relatively small with friendly collaboration, especially in the UK, but the event attracted delegates from around 14 countries including Austria, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and as far away as the US and Canada, though numbers were understandably a little lower than previous events. Nevertheless, for most delegates, this was the first event they had physically attended for two years and longer for some that had been prevented from attending two years ago at the last minute by company restrictions. Almost unanimously, everyone agreed that it was great to be back in person at DPSP and to be networking again with like-minded individuals, sharing experiences and challenges. A few of us also commented how suits seem to have shrunk while hanging idly in wardrobes over the past two years!
A tutorial with the theme ‘Protection Systems for the Renewable Grid’ preceded the main conference on Monday, with presentations from suppliers, utilities and a wind farm developer/operator. This set the scene for the conference starting on Tuesday and running for the following two-and-a-half days.
Being a protection-focused conference, it covered all aspects of electrical system protection, including generation, distribution, transmission and transport. As we know, there is a big move to decarbonize the electricity industry, which brings with it some challenges. Traditional large synchronous generators produce large fault currents, potentially damaging plant, but enabling protection to distinguish faults from load currents. Modern inverter-based generation such as solar and wind does not offer the same levels of fault current and often little more than normal load currents, making fault detection somewhat harder. A significant number of papers discussed these challenges, particularly the effect on distance protection, a currently widely used protection technique. The characteristics of fault current from these inverter-based sources can render distance protection relays unreliable or cause them not to operate at all, but that’s for the future, right? Well, one paper highlighted that the future is now, with part of an actual transmission network currently under construction, connected solely by inverter-based sources. System studies have shown that distance protection may mal-operate or not operate at all, and overcurrent protection will also not operate due to low fault current levels. Given that a typical line might have a differential protection, distance protection and overcurrent and earth fault detection, that eliminates 50% of the normal detection techniques, and us protection engineers like duplication and redundancy. There are newer detection methods available such as traveling wave, so there are options for the future, but that may just be sooner than we’d anticipated.
All of us left DPSP 2022 agreeing that it was a successful event and with a more positive outlook for the future than when we left the conference two years ago!