We have a number of recognized transmission and distribution experts serving on our board of ‘Grid Masters’. Several times each month we’ll post what we judge to be the toughest questions that also have high interest to our readers. At least one of our experts will respond. Want to challenge our Grid Masters?

This week’s question and answer:

Q: From a hardware/software perspective, what are the best solutions for interoperability across multiple communication protocols in SCADA and other related platforms?

--M. Pride

A: We need to limit interoperability to really just (2 or 3) communications protocols, especially in North America. DNP is the De facto Standard for communications protocols in North America and communications interoperability testing is in its 2nd decade for DNP. Most devices in North America are Level 2 compliant which provides a great deal of functionality and interoperability. Interoperable does not mean that every requirement is met. The standards focus on data types and structures and not on ease of use and flexibility. Good engineering and lab testing is still the best solution for Interoperability.

IEC 61850 is becoming more recognized in North America and the integration is becoming easier. The structure of SCL files associated with the standard and the massive amount of elements and documents associated with understanding this standard provide a great challenge for complete interoperability. Again, good engineering, lab testing and good engineering processes are the best solution for interoperability with IEC61850.

Modbus is still used by some in the industry, but has limitations, i.e. Quality of Data, time-stamping, data reporting. It can still provide an adequate solution for simple integration projects.

There is no best hardware solution, as most of these are hardware independent.

As far as Software OS, a "Best" is impossible to define as well. All of these seem to perform on Windows, Linux, and VxWorks (the 3 most common operating systems deployed).

Howard L Self
Smart Grid DA Program Manager
ABB


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