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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Intergraph and ETAP form Strategic Alliance to Benefit Utilities Customers

February 27th, 2015 by Susan Smith

Michel Gilles, vice president for Utilities and Communications for Intergraph, talked with GISCafe Voice this week about the recent strategic alliance between Intergraph and ETAP, to collaborate on their products’ integration and address the market for utilities and telecommunications. This fast-growing market is now beginning to support new sources of generation and production of energy. The announcement was made at DistribuTECH.

The ETAP Microgrid

The ETAP Microgrid

The goal of the two companies is to provide a fully-integrated advanced distribution management system (ADMS) featuring Intergraph’s InService outage management system (OMS) including mobile workforce management and ETAP’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and distribution management system (DMS). A single user interface integrating these different applications will provide electric distribution operators with real-time situational intelligence for improved network reliability and resilience. The collaboration also includes the integration of ETAP’s engineering planning tools with Intergraph’s G/Technology® geographic information systems (GIS).

etap-economic-microgridThe market is definitely changing and driving a new perspective on energy generation and production. In addition, retail markets and the need to support different behavior on the customer side, are contributing factors, where customers can be enabled to take advantage of different pricing structures of energy.

“The grid itself has been under stress for some time,” said Gilles. “Some of the workforce is retiring, creating difficulties for utilities to manage their grids. With resources, there are new solutions and tools needed to enable these changes in the energy sector and basically supporting the Smart Grid management. Intergraph has been involved in Smart Grid management for some time, combining outage management, SCADA and distribution management solutions.”

Gilles said that the whole concept of Smart Grid is bigger than the operations side. It also encompasses the back end asset management and the work management of the assets side of the grid.

“Our customers are now implementing solar panels and different energy sources, changing the pattern of the electricity flow in the grid,” said Gilles. “Electrical is also changing the behavior of consumption and production in the grid, and changing the way the grid is being used. Therefore a new approach in designing the grid, as well as operating it, is needed.”

Intergraph has been looking addressing both sides of the utility dilemma, including the design and analytics of the grid before it’s put into place. Because of the new behavior of the grid, one has to consider optimal placement of capacitors, optimal placement of switches, doing relay coordinations, accounting for reverse negative flows in the grid, and the new tools in the GIS environment that are required to support these processes that the grid operator is facing in today’s world. Some of these tools are needed also when you are considering extension of the grid. New divisions in some of the suburbs or commercial centers, are presenting new behavior such as rooftop solar panels and wind farms. While the grid operator is actually doing asset management and work management, he has to start considering more design criteria and analysis for the new configuration of the grid to address all these new constraints.

G-Technology is the GIS solution that Intergraph employs for this industry. The partnership with ETAP, a company specializing in network analysis, will provide tools that enable forecasts. For example, their tools will enable analysis of the distribution grids, provide tools for siting, cables, overhead lines, designing relay coordinations, settings of relays under the new operating commissions, analysis tools – analyzing the load of the distribution – distribution load flow tools, analysis tools for placing optimal capacitors to make the voltage profile in the distribution grid which is dramatically affected by the construction of solar energy or wind energy whether private or commercial or even by big providers. These capabilities will be added to G-Technology in the work asset management environment of the utility via the alliance with ETAP.

On the operational side, there is the introduction of automation in the distributing grid and the need for the solution SCADA provider’s control and acquisition solutions. In addition the introduction of smart meters in the grid, make the distribution grid more observable where before it was totally unobservable.

“The distribution grid was for many years operated from a design perspective mostly and with very little operational visibility of what is happening in the distribution grid,” said Gilles. “It has been done in a very overly conservative way but also because the consumption was quite traditional and fairly well predictable. But with the introduction of solar, wind and other sources, one sees now the behavior of consumption and production changing dramatically and therefore the old rules do not apply anymore. One needs more visibility into the way the grid is being operated to make sure service is provided at the same level of quality, but also to support new ways in which the grid is being used.”

In order to address a lot of these properties of the grid, Intergraph has had solutions to combine distribution, SCADA, office management and distribution management systems. The distribution SCADA is required to support the information of the distribution network, the office management supporting the management of offices during natural events like snow and hurricanes. It also manages unplanned outages, and coordinates planned outages with customers when those condition have to be done for major repair or maintenance in the distribution grid.

The alliance with ETAP will provide substantial added value to electric utility customers, primarily in the areas of integrated advanced distribution management including mobile workforce management, geospatial asset data management and integrated smart grid design and analysis, according to company materials. The alliance’s integrated solution also supports different operational configurations of Advanced DMS, some of which are market specific, and provides options to integrate parts of an end-to-end solution, depending upon customer need, such as the combination of outage and distribution management systems (OMS/DMS). In addition, the offering will provide flexible and evolving solutions enabling electric utility customers to integrate changes to grid operation and management with the increased deployment of intelligent devices, smart meters, distributed energy resources and microgrids.

Indirectly, smartmeters provide a lot of advantages to the grid, and to outage management. Smartmeters inform outage management directly and indirectly of any disruption of services to customers. There is loss of services somewhere in the network, but also in specific locations. This enables the utility to respond faster and in less time than in previous times when customers had to call.

Outage management is also coordinating the crews for the workforce out in the field, supporting the operations and maintenance of the grid, as crews are used to restore services.

“Sometimes some problems in the grid are not easily identifiable,” said Gilles. “They may be in multiple locations. Using smart meters, and interaction between smart meters and outage management solutions, one can find out quickly whether or not services have been fully restored. One problem may be hiding another one. With the help of smart meters and outage management we can identify the condition and crews can act and be dispatched to the right location at the right time.”

The Solutions Management System optimizes the normal operations of the grid when there is no problem. If you would like to optimize the operation of the grid, by balancing loads and feeders and take preventive actions against outages of the future, these tools are integrated. Some restoring services can be partially automated with the integration of mobile workforce management.

To provide better services to customers, Intergraph’s InService is integrated with GIS capabilities, and provides complete geospatial visual interaction and complete dispatch of crews, all packaged into one solution. It will integrate Distribution SCADA and distribution management solutions with partner ETAP.

“All the network analysis capabilities are actually considered integrated into the G-Technology solution for utility and into ETAP on the operational side,” said Gilles. “ETAP is bringing these together with our outage management solution and service to provide a complete offering of advanced distribution management system to our customers. The whole scope of our partnership with ETAP includes G-Technology and InService Solutions, Distribution SCADA and Distribution Management Solutions — from Work Asset Management all the way through the operation of the Smart Grid.”

The partnership will also bring integration. “There is still a gap between the model that work asset management is building with presenting the assets vs. the model of the electrical grid that is needed by the operational environment,” Gilles said.

“The objective is the integration the utility calls for and a data model source that is going to be unique in the enterprise. G-Technology is the best tool to do that because it is more than a GIS. It also provides network management tools that provide the guarantee of a strong connectivity and strong model on the electrical grid that is much more compatible with the operational environment. “

Intergraph is working with ETAP developing add-ons to that integration between work asset management modeling and the operational modeling of the grid, so the compatibility between the back end and the operationals can be guaranteed.

“One thing is to be emphasized is that the Smart Grid concept and the integration of G-Technology and Inservice Outage Management is vital to the water and gas utilities,” said Gilles. “On the telecommunications side, the operational side is very different, so there we are only providing G-Technology with our G-Fiber product extension to deployment.”

The Smart Grid and utility world is still growing and has a way to go as solar and wind power become more a part of the distribution network. The volume of percentage of these distributed energy sources is growing and utilities have to respond quickly. Considering all the aspects of new energy sources, product and consumption and demand response programs, outage management, etc. there is a significant impact on the design phase of the utility now which is totally new for most utilities to consider.

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Categories: 3D designs, analytics, asset management, Big Data, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, conversion, data, developers, emergency response, field GIS, geomatics, geospatial, GIS, GPS, Intergraph, location intelligence, SCADA, sensors, telecommunications, utility geographic information systems

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