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Revitalize Your Substation with an IEC 61850 Retrofit Project

Apr 05, 2016
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If you are a substation operator looking for ways to reap the benefits of IEC 61850 standardization without having to trade in your existing system, you have just arrived at the destination of new possibilities. Relentless efforts to adopt the IEC 61850 standard and extensive research to enhance the capabilities of legacy equipment to ensure their integration into the ongoing smart grid technology upgrades have finally paid off. Thanks to the substantial drop in the price of modern sensing equipment and the ease with which smart automation functions—including IEC 61850 compatibility—can be retrofitted into existing substations, the time is just right for you to take the first step towards complete automation of your substation.

A retrofit project might just be the perfect tool to revitalize your substation and provide wide-ranging benefits that include:

  • Device variety
  • End-to-end system integration
  • Operational efficiency
  • Hassle-free system maintenance

To learn more about these benefits, read our IEC 61850 Substation Retrofit Guide.

However, executing a retrofit substation project can sometimes be more challenging than building everything from scratch. Let’s look at the three main challenges that engineers face during the process of retrofitting a substation and discuss possible solutions.

Connecting the Old with the New

Existing substations sometimes use hundreds of legacy serial devices; some of which could be as much as 20 to 30 years old. One of the main aspects of modernizing an existing substation involves disconnecting legacy devices from the serial network and bringing them online on a modern TCP/IP network. The devices used in a substation could be broadly categorized into the following types:

  • Devices that use standard industrial protocols
  • Devices that use proprietary protocols
  • Devices that optimize performance with custom software applications


In addition, devices installed in different locations could be using different time-synchronization protocols.

What you need is a solution that can address both the protocol conversion and the time-synchronization requirements of your substation to ensure real-time data transmission. Such a solution will go a long way in ensuring the success of your substation-retrofit project.

Breaking the Data Silos with Complete End-to-End Integration

Engineers who manage power substations earmarked for retrofitting may be good at their job, but they may not have the communication domain knowhow needed to convert their substation to a full-fledged IEC 61850 compliant system, or may have limited time to bridge devices for system integration. When deciding how to proceed, including which products to invest in for the transition to IEC 61850 status, we suggest that you consider the following:

  • Easy-to-implement protocol-conversion products and solutions
  • Support for multiple operating systems (OS)
  • A software platform that has native compilation support for building customized applications

The solution that you choose must provide the implementation team with easy-to-configure serial-to-Ethernet protocol conversion for the devices in the substation. The solutions must also support existing and new OS for legacy devices through driver software. A flexible hardware platform that supports a native compiler to deal with the implementation of tool chains, source code, and binaries required for customized applications will make things much easier.

Ensuring Smooth Operations and Hassle-Free Maintenance

Once your IEC 61850-retrofitted substation is up and running, problems are bound to arise that will keep you on your toes. Here are some of the key areas that you can focus on to achieve uninterrupted operations and effective maintenance.

  • User-friendly tools to troubleshoot communication errors
  • A good system to prioritize Modbus messages
  • Technology that can help improve system performance and security
  • A smart backup and recovery system


Moxa's Solutions

We provide a rich portfolio of products for retrofitting legacy devices into a single system that include:

  • IEC 61850-3 Ethernet switches
  • Power computers
  • Device servers and protocol gateways for substations

For additional details, download the IEC 61850 Substation Retrofit Guide.

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