Why and when should you conduct utility substation testing? What do you need to know to complete this process successfully?Utility operators must test new facilities before they go into operation. During the commissing process, you initiate operations to determine what works, identify any issues, and fix problems you may uncover before bringing the facility on-line. Regular maintenance load testing of the various electrical substation components can help reduce overall operating and capital expenditures, improve system reliability, and minimize any liability.
Understanding Commercial Power Generation
Understanding the components of this system will help provide a framework for testing considerations.Although one of the most complex in the world, the U.S. commercial power system remains the most reliable. As the diagram depicts, three connected systems deliver electric power to ensure continuous service to all customers in a region:
- Large power plants consume coal, natural gas, nuclear material, or biomass to generate electric energy. This process creates an electric current and voltage by converting some mechanical or thermal energy into electric energy. You can also generate power through alternative sources such as geothermal steam, hydro momentum, wind, and solar.
- After generating electric power, a power plant connects to a high voltage Transmission and Distribution (T&D) network. This network acts as the trunk line, or highway, for moving electricity in a region.
- Local distribution networks connect to the T&D system, receive electricity, and deliver service a limited region. A local power company, which may be municipally operated, part of a larger co-op system, or a for-profit business, manage the power distribution. A utility substation receives power from the transmission lines and transports electricity through the distribution lines to customers.
Regional ISO (Independent System Operators) manage each region of the U.S. power grid. An ISO schedules and controls the flow of bulk electricity through the medium and high voltage T&D lines. Using complex models for predicting the total amount of electricity needed each day, the ISO schedules the operation of all power plants feeding into the T&D system to ensure enough electricity with reserves can service all local networks and customers.
Why Use Load Banks for Utility Substation Testing vs. The Power Grid
To safeguard against any interruption in electric service delivery, substation operators test their facilities during commissioning and as part of ongoing preventative maintenance. Utility substation testing requires delivering an electrical load in one of two ways. Operators can use the existing power grid or deploy load banks.Using load banks to conduct utility substation testing provides significant advantages:
- Connecting to the grid requires prior approval and scheduling from the electric utility. You just can’t plug right in and begin testing. Load banks let you decide how and when to conduct your test, thus getting your assets online and generating revenue faster.
- Usually scheduling grid testing results in extended lead times. Also, executing your testing once connected may take longer and require additional staff hours. You can shorten testing time with load banks, reduce labor requirements and lower associated costs.
- With the grid, you can’t control critical power parameters such as critical voltage, current, and load. Fluctuations affect test accuracy and safety. Load banks provide a predictable, sustainable, and controllable load that mimics real world scenarios. Greater load accuracy allows you to collect data quicker and validate design specifications.
Utility substation testing with load banks improves overall performance. Compared to using the grid, load banks help speed-up the commissioning process, improve testing accuracy, allow greater scheduling control, and create an opportunity for lowering overall commissioning costs
Important Considerations in Load Bank Testing Utility Substations
Before beginning the testing process, you must develop a utility substation testing plan. The following questions provide a starting point and will help you match the right load bank solution to your application:
- What is the size of the substation?
- What equipment is being tested?
- Load tap changers
- Current Transformers & Power Transformers
- Protective relays
- Substation communication systems
- Low and high voltage circuit breakers
- Hi-Pot Testing
- Battery Rack Testing
- What is the age of the equipment?
- What voltages will be required?
- What are the circumstances surrounding the load testing?
- Installing new electrical equipment
- Installing new protection schemes
- Electrical equipment additions or replacements
- Protection scheme additions or replacements
- Electrical equipment modifications
- Protection scheme modifications
- Mod Subs (All voltages)
- Power Transformers (greater than 2.5 MVA)
- Portable Substations (all voltages)
- Have you considered deploying medium voltage load banks?
- Medium voltage load banks contain resistors or reactors that operate above 600 VAC and below 69,000 VAC
- Involve no transformer
- Require fewer components, reducing potential points of failure
- Minimize testing space needed
- Lower related testing costs
Utility substation testing with load banks eliminates your reliance on the grid and all the associated issues. With load banks, the right equipment will perform the accurate tests for critical power generation equipment.To reduce the risks associated with commissioning substations, you should consider partnering with a load bank solution provider. An industry-leading provider can help you understand the process, select the right solutions, and streamline the testing process.
Comrent’s team of load bank experts is ready to help ensure the success of your load testing project. We are offering a complimentary consultation to review your project and propose the right load bank solution for your application. Contact us today, or call us at 888-881-7118 for more information on load bank testing.