Throughout electrical substations change continues to surge.

For decades, utilities routed power from centralized sources. Now they are orchestrating power generation across diverse and distributed sources, including renewables like wind and solar. Substations also are navigating more complex demands as we electrify transportation such as EV–with a growing segment of customers consuming and producing electricity.

What will it take to evolve substations to address operational, customer service, cost efficiency, and environmental goals?

The answer is continued investment in substation automation and digitization to create an intelligent and secure electrical delivery system that relies on communications and information technology. Cisco calls this the New Digital Substation. Unlike traditional operations, the New Digital Substation handles more sustainable, distributed, and variable energy supplies as well as fluctuating demand all in real time.

Building on more than a decade of experience supporting substation automation, Cisco recently published the Substation Automation 3.0 Design Guide. This Cisco Validated Design (CVD) builds on previous solutions supporting SCADA operational systems – and it stands out for four new and differentiated capabilities. In the quest for greater flexibility, efficiency, and security, these have become must-haves in the New Digital Substation.

Must-have #1: Resilient, Digital Operations

The industry is moving to connect more equipment using standard, open communications that are designed to digitally operate substation equipment. These applications require much more from the network than the typical SCADA based applications: low-latency, highly resilient and synchronization services.

We designed the Cisco Catalyst IE3x00 and IE9300 Rugged Series Switches and the Cisco Catalyst IR1100 and IR8340 Rugged Series Routers to support substation automation applications based on IEC 61850 – the international standard that defines communication protocols for intelligent electronic devices within substations. These devices also support other substation communication protocols and can integrate with a host of legacy hardware.

Must-have #2: Big bandwidth, small footprint

Cisco’s latest substation architecture features upgraded routing and switching solutions. The IR8340 hardware and IE9300 switches provide greater bandwidth along with more features in smaller physical footprints. As such, they can support a higher quantity of connected devices and applications while addressing goals for operational efficiency and operational cost containment.

The IR8340 is a router, switch, firewall, and precise timing module. The stackable IE9300 supports high-density fiber ports to resiliently connect lots of substation equipment while providing visibility of the substation devices and communication. Both also act as cyber security agents for the substation and have edge compute capability.

Must-have #3: Simplified network management

Historically, grid operations teams have not needed IT or network management skills as they rely on “one and done” deployments. As operations become increasingly digital, utilities need to manage and monitor the networks to maintain uptime.

The Substation Automation 3.0 architecture reduces the need for network expertise. It incorporates Cisco DNA Center and Cisco Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) technologies – which centralizes, simplifies, and automates network deployment and management. Using these tools, a smaller team can manage devices with zero-touch configuration and maintenance.

Must-have #4: Cyber security; visibility, protection and compliance

As part of any community’s critical infrastructure, substations must be hardened against cyber-security threats. Cisco’s Substation Automation 3.0 architecture upgrades cyber security capabilities including Cisco Cyber Vision to provide greater visibility and protection across the full ecosystem of connected devices.

This visibility and protection make it possible to flag suspicious communications and protect the equipment before they compromise grid security. Enhanced security and management also help address growing requirements for cyber certification (e.g. NERC/CIP), including the need to prove that essential operational processes and procedures are in place.

The new energy ecosystem is rapidly taking shape and electrical substations must keep pace. Consider how the Substation Automation 3.0 Design can help.

As with every Cisco Validated Design, we have assembled and tested all the components of the architecture. We have validated that they address resilience and interoperability goals and we have tested their ability to support core use cases, including integrating with key vendor devices and applications.

Learn more

Get an introduction to the new Digital Substation in our Substation Automation Solution Brief.  For details on designing and implementing the Digital Substation, see our Substation Automation Design and Implementation Guides.

Cisco Catalyst IE3x00 Rugged Series Switches
Cisco Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series Switches
Cisco Catalyst IR1100 Rugged Series Routers
Cisco Catalyst IR8340 Rugged Series Routers
Cisco SD-WAN
Cisco DNA Center
Cisco Cyber Vision



Leave a Reply