Software and manufacturing trends highlighted at IEEE conference

One engineer reflects on his experience at IEEE's PES Transmission & Distribution Conference (IEEE PES T&D) April 14-17 in Chicago and the event's key takeaways.

04/18/2014


Courtesy: IEEEIEEE PES T&D is here again, and as an engineer, the event is almost as fun as a kid looking at a toy catalog before Christmas. Hundreds of vendors arrive from around the world, and various products that support transmission and distribution is on display. The event was hosted by the IEEE Power & Energy Society, and it occurs about every two years.

For the last 15 years there has been discussion about what would we do if we could build a solid-state distribution or transmission circuit. At IEEE's conference this year, it became possible to start thinking about building one. With growth in the rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems industry, solid-state devices offer a lot of benefits to customers and PV owners. From solid-state transformers, to tap changes, to switches, reclosers, and sectionalizers, solid-state devices and their prototypes are either on the show floor or are shown in pictures.

Every single piece that would be needed to build a solid-state (digital) distribution circuit exists. Of course, they are not yet at prices that are reasonable, and they are not in a final commercial form that will meet long-term utility needs. There are many steps neeed to replace the existing transformers, which start with making sure standards are inclusive of these devices and their capabilities. Developing guidelines for testing, creating test procedures, using communications and system integration, and getting to common data formats on these devices is also still needed. Operations procedures need to be modified in order to incorporate new capabilities, and field workers need to be trained to install and maintain the devices. While a “laboratory” circuit is possible today, we are probably a decade away from wide commercial adoption of some of these devices. IEEE aims to help accelerate the adoption with our standards and testing guidelines.

Growing international production

Walking around IEEE PES T&D, another trend comes to view, which is the increasing quality and complexity of products from China. Four years ago at IEEE PES T&D Chinese vendors were mostly selling components and basic equipment. Today, many booths had equipment that rivaled the quality of South Korean or Japanese manufacturers. If this trend continues, in four more years, China may be one of the best places to buy transmission and distribution equipment. This change of capability will probably result in an upward spiral in equipment possibility and innovation, as each company in the industry works to produce quality equipment.

Finally, there is strong growth in the number of software vendors on the show floor and in the various hotel suites. Software continues to grow in importance for the integration and operation of the grid. The quality and variety of software is probably expanding faster in the utility industry than in any other area. All of these changes point to the need for a solid roadmap and excellent architecture at utilities in the future, as a new generation of young workers begin to take control of the grid. 

Doug Houseman is vice president of technical innovation at EnerNex LLC. 

Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media, jdmaahs@cfemedia.com.



Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
How to use IPD; 2017 Commissioning Giants; CFDs and harmonic mitigation; Eight steps to determine plumbing system requirements
2017 MEP Giants; Mergers and acquisitions report; ASHRAE 62.1; LEED v4 updates and tips; Understanding overcurrent protection
Integrating electrical and HVAC for energy efficiency; Mixed-use buildings; ASHRAE 90.4; Wireless fire alarms assessment and challenges
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; VFDs in high-performance buildings
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me