IT powers high-voltage substations
- By Kathleen Richards
As Michigan Electric Transmission Company
prepares to take over its outsourced operations in
May 2007 from service provider Consumers Energy,
customer recordkeeping and better data management
are at the top of the startup's IT list. The ultimate
goal is to add intelligence at the local-area
substations that handle power distribution to customers
by implementing technology to collect and
analyze data to enable better service and reliability.
The project, which started in late 2005, will take 7
or 8 years to complete.
"There is absolutely no real ITat the substations,"
says Paul Myrda, chief technologist and director
of operations at Trans-Elect, METC's parent
company. "The majority of the U.S. is still operating
with electrical-mechanical relays."
METC is attempting to dust off that paradigm
by installing an intelligent electricity network
and outsourcing data management to an IBM hosting
center. The utility signed a contract with IBM last July
for consulting and hosting services.
The electricity transmission system transfers
high-voltage power from generating facilities to 80
local-area substations, using 5,400 miles of overhead
and underground transmission lines. At each of its
substations, METC is installing GE microprocessorbased
relays, video cameras for security, access control
through key cards, weather stations, equipment
monitoring devices and health apparatus.
The microprocessor relays will provide about
500 analog and 500 digital values, compared
to a dozen, at most, with older equipment,
Myrda says. The information from all of
these devices will be collected and archived
at the substations and then sent to the hosting
center for analysis.
"The operational side is taking a quantum leap as
far as the amount of intelligence that we are gathering
at the substations and how we intend to use all
that," he says.
The hosting center will support GE's PowerLink Advantage, a man-machine interface tool that
mimics the activity at the substation. "It is relatively
easy today, with the technology, to give people
permissions to have rights of access to certain portions of the information
that you are trying to manage--and
protect others," explains Myrda.
"There will be people that have a GE
hat on that have access to relevant
data on these relays to
do settings, and that's not
a technology issue, or
anything else, that's just
The METC team estimates
the first phase of the
substation upgrade project
will cost $5 million. "We are growing,
and we recognized the need for
better data management," says Julie
Couillard, executive VP and COO. "So
you look at the cost of maintaining the
aging infrastructure and the lack of
data that comes out of what is there
versus upgrading to these new systems
and the data and information you can
use to analyze your system."
The initial phase of the hosting
project was finished in January.
Apps used to develop the intelligent
supports open data exchange
software and other
include IBM eServers,
IBM WebSphere integration
analytics and dashboards, InStep's
eDNA data historian software and
IBM's enterprise content management
software (formerly Green Pastures)
is the records and workflow
management platform. MRO Software's
Maximo Asset and IT Service
Management software is also part of
the mix. The hosting facility also houses
some of METC's existing business
systems, such as its financial app,
which formerly resided at the company's
headquarters. To help model information,
about assets for example,
METC leveraged the Utility Common
Information Model. The IT team is
also adopting the IEC 68150 self-describing
architecture to develop highcapacity
Ethernet connections at the
The equipment and apps that need
to be installed at the hosting center
are up, and generation of test data is
under way, reports Mryda. The first
substation is scheduled to come online
Kathleen Richards (email@example.com) is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.