Synaptec contributes to case for next generation monitoring tools

24 April 2020

Synaptec has contributed to a technical paper released by the North American SynchroPhasor Initiative (NASPI), which is titled “High-Resolution, Time-Synchronized Grid Monitoring Devices“. It’s available freely online at: https://www.naspi.org/node/819

This paper, written by several industry experts, makes the case for the next generation of power system monitoring tools. These new tools essentially provide sample-by-sample waveforms of voltages and currents, which goes well beyond the capabilities of conventional synchrophasor or SCADA-based measurements – providing 2-3 orders of magnitude more detail. This is like having networked fault recorders, with the data readily available to users in real-time. Until recently, this has not been possible to achieve cost-effectively. 

This approach, which has been dubbed continuous point-on-wave (CPOW), is critical for understanding and diagnosing some events which are “hidden” in relatively coarse synchrophasor or SCADA data. For example, transients during switching events or electrical faults, which may include stressful electrical arcing, could be detected and logged within the condition monitoring profile for that asset. The entire transient may simply be unobservable using synchrophasor data. 

Another key application is detection of oscillations in power flows or voltages. These oscillations can have disastrous consequences – such activity occurred prior to and during the partial Great Britain blackout on 9th August 2019. Synchrophasor or SCADA measurements are usually not suitable for detecting some of these oscillations, particularly for relatively high frequencies (greater than 12 Hz). Furthermore, it is critical to be able to perform post-event analysis following such disturbances. This requires near-instant access to accurate, time-synchronised data over a wide area of the power system. 

Synaptec’s hardware platform inherently already  performs CPOW monitoring of voltage and current signals (and other useful physical parameters, such as temperature, vibration, and strain). It is the most cost-effectively way to achieve wide-area monitoring, particularly for extremely remote locations which are challenging to instrument. This is because the measurements are made passively, without requiring a dedicated power supply or a time synchronisation source at the measurement location. 

Synthesis is a new software platform which has been designed to build upon the unique capabilities of Synaptec’s distributed sensing hardware. A single Synaptec Interrogator unit may provide data from up to 50 sensors, with data sampling of at least 4 kHz. Synthesis is therefore designed specifically to work with CPOW data, and cope with the visualisation and analytics needs for large-scale monitoring schemes. 

It’s also important to ensure that operators are not overwhelmed with raw data points from CPOW monitoring. This requires careful processing of the underlying data, and supplying appropriate visualisations. The Synthesis platform automatically produces summarised data formats (e.g. synchrophasor outputs and power quality metrics). It also implements additional processing and analytics to extract everything possible from the detailed data, to minimise the effort required by our customers to deal with this themselves. Crucially, this enables greatly enhanced possibilities for asset management – using detailed data from a wide variety of inputs