…in pursuit of control room best practice

The Next Generation Network Operations (NGNO) project is about providing a generational leap towards a modern and contemporary network operations capability, utilising best-practice technologies, processes and skills to drive efficiency and performance. Although an Energy Management System (EMS) replacement is a primary focus, the provision of a centralised, safe and technologically advanced working environment for Network Controllers is also a priority. 

A key consideration for an NGNO control room is a visually attractive platform that allows Network Controllers to work effectively in an environment that is ergonomically safe and to support effective incident management. This is achieved through control room design and advanced communication systems that enable more collaboration between multiple teams in a noise-controlled environment. This supports good decision-making in an environment where escalating volume and complexity of data, challenges those capabilities. 

The control room’s relevance in the NGNO is to ensure ongoing daily decision-making supports corporate goals and returns on current plant. It also needs to support design considerations that factor in the growing role of renewable generation sources such as wind and solar that will challenge traditional transmission and power delivery models over the next 15 to 20 years. This includes the capability and capacity, based on optimal control room resource levels and ongoing Network Controller training, to facilitate a full-scale Queensland system black restoration.

The control room platform will also feature the technological foundations of an Advanced Energy Management System (AEMS) to deliver increased automation, advanced communication, improved collection of real-time data through various sources for advanced analytics, powerful data visualisation solutions to advanced digital displays (including video walls).

This increase in control room advanced technical capabilities will significantly enhance our ongoing ability to reliably and efficiently operate our networks as they increase in size and complexity. Our aim is for these technologies to maximise our decision-making – drawing on human and machine input, personal and shared data visualisation, data security and accessibility, an advanced level of real time and forecast situational awareness and other decision support systems.

With these capabilities, a Network Controller can maintain an enhanced awareness of the networks being monitored. This will help to efficiently operate the power and telecommunication systems as safely, reliably and efficiently as possible.

Visualised control room human factor improvements supported by the NGNO project include:

  • Ergonomic furniture, layout and visualisation of displays and video walls
  • Effective sound engineering to minimise noise within the control room
  • Reconfigurable control room facilities for teams co-located in that area, plus adjoining event management rooms
  • The inclusion of future capabilities to expand facilities within the control room to ensure increases in services and volumes of work are provided for
  • Configurable control room individual workspace with manually adjustable lighting complemented with an automated control option triggered by time of day and critical events
  • A Collaboration Table – an interactive touchscreen table designed for informed discussions and collaboration between teams and operator shift changes
  • Increased resilience and operational continuity
  • Factors that ensure Network Controllers decision making capabilities are maintained at an optimal cognitive level (optimal workload levels)
    • A significant reduction in manual AEMS operations (30% to 50%) supported through:
      • Automation of predictable multiple switching operations (removing a transformer from service)
      • Minimisation of manual processes associated with network access and reconfiguration to networks
      • Automatic responses to National Electricity Market notices
      • Automated voltage control operations at lower kV levels (machine learning).
    • A significant reduction in manual workload (30% to 50%) and efficient operation of an ever increasing complex network supported through:
      • Advanced alarm management techniques
      • Alarming and priority allocation to include alarms indication market and network security issue awareness and control room responses required
      • Advanced communications (click to dial from AEMS and FaceTime capabilities)
      • Direct communication with support teams and field staff (wireless FaceTime etc.)
      • Knowledge management through AEMS user interface accessibility
      • Critical alarms that deliver information automatically to the operator
      • Advanced visualisation of system security and network status in real time and forecast timeframes
      • Holographic capabilities and virtual reality technologies to enhance advanced visualisation of data analytics and network situational awareness
      • Direct feed capabilities from drone operations to control room and aligned teams
      • Geographical association of rain, storm, wind, cloud, smoke haze and daylight conditions with power system, direct connect customers, and DSO DER’s and micro grids
      • Predictive near real time assessment and analytical functionality
      • Wireless Tablet switching platforms for field staff
      • Less displays required
      • Less input strokes e.g. Mouse clicks
      • Less eye movements
      • Less head and body movements to view and respond to alarms e.g. alarm summary display automatically moving to eye line
      • Screen and wall board displays optimised to human behaviours of eye scanning and assimilation of data
      • Maximised visualisation of information while minimising the display of raw data
      • Expandable for additional services offering
        • Operating customer solar and wind plant and yards,
        • LNG network operation and monitoring etc.
      • 100% use of wallboard/s real-estate,
      • Zoom functionality on a wallboard (automatic and manual)
      • Disaster Recovery sites mirrored on an economic basis e.g. parallel operation capable for large scale event recovery resourcing.
  • The inclusion of control room facilities to enable shared learning of forced outage events amongst Network Controllers via a historical Operations Training Simulator saved scenario.
  • Supporting Wi-Fi facilities to be considered at all sites to support capabilities addressed in NGNO project visualisation.

As a Powerlink Network Operations vision, the NGNO project is not just a technology refresh project, the inclusion of a modern and contemporary network operations control room upgrade is an important indicator to ALL relevant industries the value and benefits of a  modern control room facility and reinforces “Without a great Control Room, you can’t have a great business”.

Steve Saunders

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