The grid of the future will require digitalization to deliver higher performance, increased flexibility and integrate a new generation mix. Virtual Protective Relays (VPR) are an important step in this process, but widespread integration seems far off. If you have an EPC Renewables Integration project, learn how VPR could be the right option for your project right now.
Why would a developer want to choose virtual protective relays now?
In today’s race to accelerate renewable integration, timeline and equipment availability are key drivers of project success. Since EPC contracting often allows for condensed timelines and cost, it has become the preferred delivery method for large-scale renewable integration projects.
VPR is a good option when delivering such projects as it works well with the EPC model to further condense timelines, decrease costs, and improve equipment availability.
As a single, centralized protection unit for multiple transformers, buses, feeders, and capacitor banks, VPR allows developers to more easily and efficiently tackle the large scale renewable integration projects of today’s rapidly evolving industry.
What are the benefits?
Developers and utilities can both leverage VPR to control project costs and compress schedule. VPR reduces protection and control system design durations and provides a standard control building design - which reduces procurement durations, and allows for full functional testing and commissioning at the factory.
It also reduces procurement and fabrication schedules for control buildings, which are notoriously one of the longest lead procurement items within a renewables collector station. Here, cost savings are realized by purchasing a smaller control building with no need to account for future equipment installation, which, in turn, leads to savings in foundation installation and site development. Internal and external wiring is also significantly reduced; replaced by fiber jumpers.
Reduction in cost and schedule mean less risk for all parties as the project moves through the approval and funding process and into service.
What other types of projects are virtual protective relays a good fit for, now and in the future?
A typical utility distribution station is comprised of a distribution transformer, bus, feeders, and capacitor banks – nearly identical in scope to the renewable collector station. It’s not difficult to see how a VPR solution could be used in this type of project, too. On a larger scale, a station with multiple distribution transformers and all the accompanying feeders, buses, breakers, and capacitor banks can be also be protected with a single VPR unit and incorporate an automatic rollover scheme and all necessary SCADA functions.
What’s the bottom line?
Hardware and software development continues to provide new opportunities to leverage Virtual Protective Relaying. With a strong business partnership, thoughtful pre-project planning and early development and testing, many developer-led projects and utility-led projects can benefit from the advantages that VPR has to offer. However, with development work that has already been done by Black & Veatch and others, EPC renewable integration projects represent an immediate high-value project where VPR can be used to reduce costs and compress project schedules.