Power Telecommunications: the Technology of the Future Today
A large-scale modernization is underway in the Kazakh electrical power industry. One of the basic trends of this process is the introduction of up-to-date telecommunication solutions and technology. We have asked ASTEL’s Corporate Client Manager Rodion Fazleyev to tell us about the tasks faced by Kazakh power engineering specialists in this area.
Mr. Fazleyev, you have worked in the power industry for many years. Before starting on ‘telecom’ questions, could you please tell us some details about this industry’s operation under market conditions?
Before independence, Kazakhstan’s power industry was an integral part of the Common Power System (CPS) of the USSR. A product of the command economy, this industry met the requirements of the Soviet economic system perfectly. It could provide as much power as was needed to any consumer at any point in time. The process of transferring power from power plants to consumers was overseen by grid control services which monitored the consumption level and compensated for lack of power in any regional system by transferring it from other power systems.
When the USSR collapsed, the sovereign republics divided everything between themselves: industries, railways and raw materials. However it was impossible to divide up a single power system. Moreover, as market relations evolved, a whole host of serious problems came to light. Since the CPS was built as a purely process-driven structure, it lacked mechanisms for effecting payments for the electricity consumed or transferred. This is why our power engineers now face the tedious task of creating a system to control electricity generation, consumption and losses. A system is needed which can thriftily control who is generating electricity, how much is being generated and who is consuming how much electricity and when.
Are you implying that the priority task that we face is ensuring precision of metering?
You are absolutely right. When transferring power to the CPS, the producers do not know who is consuming how much. At the same time, the power demand level throughout Kazakhstan varies due to time differences. It is impossible to accumulate excess power at a power plant, as it has to be transferred to areas lacking electric power through substations and power transmission lines. So, a reasonable question arises: who should pay for the electricity generated by a specific producer in this event?
This seriously complicates the task of organizing mutual settlements between consumers and producers. Therefore we are now planning to implement a Blueprint for Modernization of the National Power Grid envisaging the creation of a wholesale electricity market.
What is the role of telecom systems in these processes?
While it is possible to implement calculation and registration of electricity generation and consumption in separate regional grids, this becomes quite difficult when we have to deal with the flows transferred via the CPS. Today the amounts of electricity received and transferred to consumers are read manually at irregular intervals, then recorded and sent to central offices. It is problematic to ensure uninterrupted and simultaneous reading of these indices.
Unfortunately, the majority of companies only use channels utilizing power transmission lines as a transmission medium and can only provide a transmission mode of 300-2,000 bps. Whilst voice can be transferred via this medium, digital communications utilizing standard modems are impossible due to the high noise level. As a result these companies have to transmit data to their central offices using voice communications through bad telephone channels.
Obviously, this approach is inefficient under modern conditions. Our company can offer a number of alternative solutions such as DialAway and FaraWay satellite communication services, fibre optic channels and special modems capable of suppressing noise through high data redundancy during signal encoding. This depends on the specific requirements and conditions of each client. It is quite possible that these services may be combined or some other solutions utilized when implementing one project or another. Our company’s range of options is broad in this respect since we have been in the market for more than a decade.
One recent example is the construction of a network for the Atyrau Zharyk power company. A network built using the DialAway satellite technology and comprising ten terminals provided communication services to the remote power transmission line plants. Thanks to this project, voice and data transmission between plants became possible.
Does this mean that ASTEL offers comprehensive solutions to automate all the financial and economic procedures of power companies?
Yes. To achieve this, it is crucial to create a global corporate information network able to collect and transmit essential information to the central office promptly, and perform further processing and accumulation in databases.
The future corporate information network will help to solve the global task of registering power redistribution and performing mathematical calculations. However, as I have said before, the collection and transmission of data from substation meters (these register receipt of power from producers and transmission to other grids) should be automated. It is also crucial to ensure the accuracy of the data collected and tie it in to a common time frame. The balance of electricity received, transmitted and consumed in transmission through grids has to be checked constantly.
In addition to providing the commercial calculation system with essential information, there are a number of purely technological tasks which require permanent, prompt communications between companies and the central offices of the power complex. Will you please list them?
Taking account of the detailed structure of the domestic power industry, arising from the large territory that Kazakhstan occupies, a number of information tasks have to be solved, whether carrying out the regular cycle of operations or dealing with an emergency on a power transmission line. These include monitoring the backup equipment in each company, registering the equipment in each department of the distributed warehouse, determining the optimum routes for maintenance teams and the composition of these teams.
In addition, it is important to automate the implementation of individual process tasks such as defining the equipment operating status and line faults. For this purpose, digital oscilloscopes have been installed which can register information about the state of a line and transmit it as a file by email. Based on this information, the source of the failure and type of fault can be calculated.
In conclusion, I would like to note that ASTEL does not simply eliminate problems. Our company offers the most effective solution. When implementing a project our experts take account of the client’s requirements for security and safety of information, transmission speed and availability of redundant communication channels. The electrical power industry is a very serious sector where any shortcoming can have a high cost. Implementing all the requirements for quality and security of information transmission ensures transparent operation of the entire system, which is especially important during emergency situations when every second is precious. Being an ASTEL employee and knowing the procedures from the inside, I can truthfully say that our company is not afraid to undertake this responsibility, thanks to our high professionalism and the use of tried and trusted technology.
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