The main goal of virtualization is to provide a new operational environment, which is not bound to any computer hardware or operating system. Hardware components are typically designed to be robust and reliable, but they can also be expensive and difficult to modify or upgrade. Separating hardware from software allows for the software to be updated or modified without affecting the hardware.
The separation of hardware and software in electrical equipment has significant implications in terms of design, development, and maintenance. The main reason behind this separation is to allow for greater flexibility, upgradability, and ease of maintenance.
Virtualizing a substation makes it possible to represent its operation in a digital model, in real-time. It enables the automation of processes using algorithms programmed by software that act and command the physical elements of a substation. This technique is used to optimise the management and maintenance of electrical substations, and brings numerous benefits to utilities and end users of the network, such as:
1. It allows operators to have more detailed and accurate visibility ofthe status of a substation in real-time, reducing operators’ maintenance costs in the field.
2. This real-time information and the ability to analyse it with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms, help operators identify and fix substation problems much faster as well as anticipate failures. This results in reduced downtime and thus, fewer power outages forend-users.
3. A virtual infrastructure makes it easier to simulate emergency situations and develop contingency plans, giving better visibility of potential risks and threats and therefore greater physical and cyber security to the network.
4. Finally, a virtualised substation helps companies optimise their infrastructure investment. Given that the evolution of the software is traditionally more agile and cost-effective than that of the hardware,virtualised infrastructures make it possible to update and improve substation operations more frequently, and to plan their maintenance more efficiently.
Virtualisation enables operators to gain greater technological flexibility with services developed by independent providers and with different technologies best suited to each operation. Also, scalability is another key aspect for virtualisation as electrical transport infrastructure is made up of thousands of distributed assets. To this end, it is essential to have an architecture based on microservices, as they are independent units that can be scaled separately, according to the specific needs of each installation or application.
Unlike monolithic architectures and, those based on hardware, microservices allow each instance to evolve independently, speeding up the time it takes to launch patches or new functionalities when and where is necessary.
“Barbara´s role is to provide “Edge Computing” capabilities that can operate critical microservices due to their security and performance.
In the following paper we illustrate three critical processes that Barbara, together with its partners, have virtualised based on microservices and tested in substation laboratory environments:
1. Real-time oscilloscope for GOOSE triggered power data
2. Remotely programmable real-time interlocks
3. Ventilation control via SF6 monitoring
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At Barbara, we think that the Smart Grid cannot be solely managed from centralised platforms. Connectivity, data volume, the need for real-time esponses and the security and privacy of data and equipment are all challenges that only a highly distributed and independent IT infrastructure can handle.
Thanks to Barbara, companies can integrate both legacy and next-generation industrial equipment data, deploy their own or third-party intelligence through our Marketplace, and streamline their management at scale on a single platform from anywhere.