Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Tarlochan S. Sidhu


The IEC 61850 standard is receiving acceptance worldwide to deploy Ethernet Local Area Networks (LANs) for electrical substations in a smart grid environment. With the recent growth in wireless communication technologies, wireless Ethernet or Wireless LAN (WLAN), standardized in IEEE 802.11, is gaining interest in the power industry for substation automation applications, especially at the distribution level. Low Voltage (LV) / Medium Voltage (MV) distribution substations have comparatively low time-critical performance requirements. At the same time, expensive but high data-rate fiber-based Ethernet networks may not be a feasible solution for the MV/LV distribution network. Extensive work is carried out to assess wireless LAN technologies for various IEC 61850 based smart distribution substation applications: control and monitoring; automation and metering; and over-current protection.

First, the investigation of wireless LANs for various smart distribution substation applications was initiated with radio noise-level measurements in total five (27.6 and 13.8 kV) substations owned by London Hydro and Hydro One in London, ON, Canada. The measured noise level from a spectrum analyzer was modeled using the Probability Distribution Function (PDF) tool in MATLAB, and parameters for these models in the 2.4 GHz band and 5.8 GHz band were obtained. Further, this measured noise models were used to simulate substation environment in OPNET (the industry-trusted communication networking simulation) tool. In addition, the efforts for developing dynamic models of WLAN-enabled IEC 61850 devices were initiated using Proto-C programming in OPNET tool. The IEC 61850 based devices, such as Protection and Control (P&C) Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) and Merging Unit (MU) were developed based on the OSI-7 layer stack proposed in IEC 61850. The performance of various smart distribution substation applications was assessed in terms of average and maximum message transfer delays and throughput.

The work was extended by developing hardware prototypes of WLAN enabled IEC 61850 devices in the R&D laboratory at University of Western Ontario, Canada. P&C IED, MU, Processing IED, and Echo IED were developed using industrial embedded computers over the QNX Real Time Operating System (RTOS) platform. The functions were developed using hard real-time multithreads, timers, and so on to communicate IEC 61850 application messages for analyzing WLAN performance in terms of Round Trip Time (RTT) and throughput. The laboratory was set up with WLAN-enabled IEC 61850 devices, a commercially available WLAN Access Point (AP), noise sources, and spectrum and network analyzers. Performance of various smart distribution substation applications is examined within the developed laboratory.

Finally, the performance evaluation was carried out in real-world field testing at 13.8 and 27.6 kV distribution substations, by installing the devices in substation control room and switchyard. The RTT of IEC 61850 based messages and operating time of the overcurrent protection using WLAN based communication network were evaluated in the harsh environment of actual distribution substations. The important findings from the exhaustive investigation were discussed throughout this work.