How It Works: Testing in the Lab Makes for Faster Work in the Field
How It Works: Testing in the Lab Makes for Faster Work in the Field
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How It Works: Testing in the Lab Makes for Faster Work in the Field
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Burns & McDonnell has established several testing labs around the country to help find the ROI in new and emerging technologies.

With the promise of smart grid networks, more utilities and other industrial companies are investing in substation upgrades to gain the performance benefits of new and emerging technologies. A primary concern is realizing a return on investment with these infrastructure updates.

Testing equipment and processes in a laboratory setting — instead of in the field — can be a powerful tool in finding that ROI. Burns & McDonnell has established several such testing labs in offices around the country to help clients with this process.

"Using the lab to review and prove relay settings — just one of the capabilities available — can easily save a substation operator tens of thousands of dollars," says Jeff Caraway, a Burns & McDonnell project manager.

Significant dollar savings come from the significant time savings in the field.

"Adjusting the settings by trial and error in the field can take weeks of costly technician time, including a lot of wasted ‘wait' time," he says. "By having protection and controls engineers run the settings through the lab first, we can get the client's equipment settings close to where they need to be, significantly reducing the expensive field time needed down to hours rather than weeks."

In addition to relay testing, substation operators can try out their planned IEC 61850 communications networks before installation. The labs include equipment from most major manufacturers, which can be configured to simulate the substation's network, allowing users to test system integration and assess performance under varied scenarios, and then fine-tune plans before installation. Similarly, substation automation plans can be tested and fine-tuned.

Burns & McDonnell can develop a human-machine interface (HMI) for substation automation, which lets utility technicians walk into the control enclosure after a relay event and check the health of the station and its systems via a touch-screen monitor.

Two Burns & McDonnell offices have labs in operation — Houston and Kansas City — with a New England site opening soon. The Houston space has two separate substations for simulating transmission and distribution and allowing end-to-end testing. In New England, the lab is being fully built out but is already helping a client with cybersecurity firewall testing. When complete, it will also offer a fully integrated IEC 61850 test platform.

For more information, contact Hyun Kim, 832-214-2889.

Read more about the Kansas City lab >

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