First fully digital substation in US begins operation

First fully digital substation in US begins operation
One Energy’s fully digital transformers sits elevated on a containment pad that is self-extinguishing in the unlikely event of a fire. Breaker and transformer by Hitachi Energy. Containment pad by Sanergrid. (Photo: Business Wire)

One Energy Enterprises, an industrial power solutions company, announced that the first fully digital, plug-and-play, transmission-voltage substation in the US at One Energy’s Findlay, Ohio headquarters, has completed energisation and testing and begun commercial operation.

One Energy’s digital substation, intended to power its “Megawatt Hub,” was built as proof of concept for the company’s new, fully digital station architecture.

One Energy’s Megawatt Hubs provide high-volume power connections for industries that require significant loads of power for their operations, such as electric truck charging, digital currency mining, and indoor farming. A typical factory might use between five and ten MW of power. The Findlay Megawatt Hub is a 30MW site that is expandable to 150MW and includes the first fully digital, plug-and-play, transmission-voltage substation in the United States, said the company.

“It is time we completely rethink how substations are designed so that the industry stops making the same mistakes they have been for the last 50 years,” One Energy CEO Jereme Kent said.

“Traditional substations are not secure; they can fail during inevitable severe weather conditions, lack basic condition monitoring, and rely on thousands of small wires to send status and control signals back to the control building. This is why we’ve designed our fully digital substations at One Energy to be secure, digital, resilient, embrace real-time condition monitoring, and survive every conceivable weather event.”

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To build a fully digital substation, One Energy elected to use Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ TiDL system, marking the first time a substation is connected entirely by fiber optics using the TiDL system in the United States, according to the company.

One Energy said it preferred the simplicity of physical security that comes with TiDL’s point-to-point fiber communication. This is why the TiDL system was chosen over the IEC 61850-style digital architecture that is gaining traction in Europe.

The TiDL merging unit can be factory installed, tested, and commissioned in all major equipment, making field wiring as simple as connecting a fiber optic cable.

The substation’s 30 MVA transformer, built by Hitachi Energy, includes the Coresense M10 real-time dissolved gas analyser and condition monitoring system.

The system can detect an anomaly in the transformer and, through the control system, automatically send alerts via text to system operators.

The Coresense M10 performs a full dissolved gas analysis on the transformer every 10 minutes, compared to most substation transformers that only test oil once a year.

The high-voltage circuit breakers were also supplied by Hitachi Energy and feature a full condition monitoring package as well. Early and real-time communication and condition monitoring identify smaller issues before they potentially advance into larger issues.

Measures were also taken to increase the substation’s safety and resilience.

To provide physical security for the site, it is surrounded by permanent walls that are all modular and made of solid concrete.

To reduce risks related to animal interference and blowing debris, which are common and are major sources of fault for traditional substations, it was designed to allow for no exposed live parts on the medium voltage buswork.

To prevent what traditionally causes substation fires, it includes environmentally friendly oils and passive and automatic fire suppression systems, the company said.

Originally published on Power Grid.