Protection Engineering for the Modern Grid
May 4, 2020

Richard Adams

As countries continue down the path toward low or no-carbon energy supplies, the role of protection engineering is adapting to balance integrating these new resources while maintaining reliability.  PSC offers its Protection Engineering Services to help its clients protect their mission-critical assets and personnel while maximizing grid reliability and operational life.

According to the International Energy Agency, global renewable capacity is expected to grow by 12 percent this year. The agency also predicts that offshore wind capacity will triple by 2024. This trend is driven by the transition toward 100 percent clean electricity in many countries, cities, and utilities around the world. As the modern grid adapts to decarbonization – with elevated levels of renewable penetration, diverse range of generation types, and the wider distribution of generation sources – new challenges and uncertainties have been introduced into the power system.  Renewable generation, with its higher levels of intermittency and lower fault level contribution, offers distinctive characteristics to our traditional view of thermal generation sources. 

Renewable generation and protection engineering 

For the protection engineer, the challenge to distinguish between fault and overload conditions is heightened by renewable generation. Alternative techniques may need to be applied, such as a traveling wave-based fault detection schemes which rely less on the fault current contribution from the sources and more on the transients generated during a fault.  

With the growth in renewables, there is also an increasing need for protection and studies engineers to align system frequency defense and load management schemes to enable the connection of as much renewable capacity as possible and to ensure that the overall power system remains stable.     

A lot of renewable generation is positioned within distribution networks and close to the point of delivery. This allows for islanding – the ability to disconnect from the grid during a disturbance and operate independently – but complicates protecting the grid and its assets. For this reason, many renewable installations include loss-of-mains protection to disconnect the embedded generator and maintain the safety of the plant and its personnel if the connection is lost. Conversely, renewable generation must not trip for disturbances on the grid when that generation is needed to support the network during such faults and to avoid cascade tripping of networks. 

PSC’s experienced protection engineers, at your service 

PSC offers a strong blend of protection and studies specialists providing an ideal base to support utilities and generators to overcome these challenges with renewable integration.  Our subject matter experts have undertaken system modeling and protection grading studies for windfarm connections working with wind farm developers to produce tender documents, technical specifications, and testing requirements for new renewable generation.  

Our protection specialists have assisted utilities with the design of load management schemes to control the amount of renewable generation at points on a network. We’ve helped with utility wide assessments of under/over frequency schemes and updating of protection policies, ensuring that relevant codes are followed. We’ve also performed technical due diligence of installed designs to verify compliance with relevant standards and specificationsAnd, our engineers have been involved in the root cause assessments of protection failures on offshore substations.   

Protecting safety and reliability 

Dependable protection systems are necessary to ensure grid stability and overall safety. As renewable generation increases, the role of protection engineering is adapting to balance integrating these new resources while maintaining reliability, maximizing operational life, and protecting its assets and personnel.  

Read more about our Power System Protection capabilities and reach out for more information.