Six months after the IEC 61850 communication standard for substation automation was released, Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution (PTD) installed the world's first substation with complete (or 100%) IEC 61850-based control. The equipment was installed in November 2004 in a 16-kV substation in Switzerland owned by Aare-Tessin AG (Atel), an independent energy group operating throughout Europe and headquartered in Olten, Switzerland. Siemens installed its SICAM PAS (power automation system) control system in accordance with the new standard throughout the substation. The new communication standard ensures the required interoperability in the substation. All connected protection devices now “speak” a common language, regardless of manufacturer, which smoothes the exchange of data with one another.

There have been few cases where substation protection systems and bay controllers from different manufacturers could communicate with each other because a variety of communication protocols exist in substations across the world today. For the operator, this means a lot of work during commissioning and unnecessarily high costs, as countless protocol converters have to be used. A further problem is that different communication protocols have a negative effect on the long-term maintainability and extendibility of the equipment.

Siemens PTD was engaged to exploit the benefits of the new standard. In addition to making the substation fit for the future by ensuring its communication capability in line with IEC 61850, Siemens replaced the 40-year-old switchgear at the substation with its new metal-clad, compartmentalized medium-voltage switchgear system NX Plus C. A further requirement was the ability to remotely control and monitor the equipment. The protection and control functions were to be realized using combined protection/bay control devices.

The configuration phase of the substation control was completed after only four weeks. Because Siemens PTD had played a major role in development of the new standard, it was able to implement the necessary communication technology in its substation control and protection at an early stage. In SICAM PAS, the substation now has an open control system using IEC 61850 as the standard for communication between the bay and substation levels.

With its network and IT capability, the control system also can be integrated into existing equipment. To this end, communication drivers are available for all common protocols at the substation level besides the IEC drivers. There are interfaces for OPC servers and clients for integration in office applications or database systems. As a first step, Siemens adapted its SIPROTEC 4 protection systems to the IEC 61850 standard. This series can be deployed for substation control as a protection device, bay control device or combined protection and bay control device.