A substation is a part of an electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system. Substations transform voltage from high to low, or the reverse, or perform any of several other important functions. Between the generating station and consumer, electric power may flow through several substations at different voltage levels.
A substation may include transformers to change voltage levels between high transmission voltages and lower distribution voltages, or at the interconnection of two different transmission voltages. The word substation comes from the days before the distribution system became a grid. As central generation stations became larger, smaller generating plants were converted to distribution stations, receiving their energy supply from a larger plant instead of using their own generators. The first substations were connected to only one power station, where the generators were housed, and were subsidiaries of that power station.
Substations may be described by their voltage class, their applications within the power system, the method used to insulate most connections, and by the style and materials of the structures used. These categories are not disjointed; to solve a particular problem, a transmission substation may include significant distribution functions, for example.
A transmission substation connects two or more transmission lines. The simplest case is where all transmission lines have the same voltage. In such cases, substation contains high-voltage switches that allow lines to be connected or isolated for fault clearance or maintenance. A transmission station may have transformers to convert between two transmission voltages, voltage control/power factor correction devices such as capacitors, reactors or static VAR compensators and equipment such as phase shifting transformers to control power flow between two adjacent power systems.
Transmission substations can range from simple to complex. A small "switching station" may be little more than a bus plus some circuit breakers. The largest transmission substations can cover a large area (several acres/hectares) with multiple voltage levels, many circuit breakers and a large amount of protection and control equipment (voltage and current transformers, relays and SCADA systems). Modern substations may be implemented using international standards such as IEC Standard 61850.
A distribution substation transfers power from the transmission system to the distribution system of an area. It is uneconomical to directly connect electricity consumers to the main transmission network, unless they use large amounts of power, so the distribution station reduces voltage to a level suitable for local distribution.
The input for a distribution substation is typically at least two transmission or sub transmission lines. Input voltage may be, for example, 115 kV, or whatever is common in the area. The output is a number of feeders. Distribution voltages are typically medium voltage, between 2.4 kV and 33 kV depending on the size of the area served and the practices of the local utility. The feeders run along streets overhead (or underground, in some cases) and power the distribution transformers at or near the customer premises.
In addition to transforming voltage, distribution substations also isolate faults in either the transmission or distribution systems. Distribution substations are typically the points of voltage regulation, although on long distribution circuits (of several miles/kilometers), voltage regulation equipment may also be installed along the line.
The downtown areas of large cities feature complicated distribution substations, with high-voltage switching, and switching and backup systems on the low-voltage side. More typical distribution substations have a switch, one transformer, and minimal facilities on the low-voltage side.
In distributed generation projects such as a wind farm, a collector substation may be required. It resembles a distribution substation although power flow is in the opposite direction, from many wind turbines up into the transmission grid. Usually for economy of construction the collector system operates around 35 kV, and the collector substation steps up voltage to a transmission voltage for the grid. The collector substation can also provide power factor correction if it is needed, metering and control of the wind farm.Collector substations also exist where multiple thermal or hydroelectric power plants of comparable output power are in proximity.
Converter substations may be associated with HVDC converter plants, traction current, or interconnected non-synchronous networks. These stations contain power electronic devices to change the frequency of current, or else convert from alternating to direct current or the reverse. Formerly rotary converters changed frequency to interconnect two systems; such substations today are rare.
A switching station is a substation without transformers and operating only at a single voltage level. Switching stations are sometimes used as collector and distribution stations.
A switching station may also be known as a switchyard, and these are commonly located directly adjacent to or nearby a power station. In this case the generators from the power station supply their power into the yard onto the Generator Bus on one side of the yard, and the transmission lines take their power from a Feeder Bus on the other side of the yard.
An important function performed by a substation is switching, which is the connecting and disconnecting of transmission lines or other components to and from the system. Switching events may be "planned" or "unplanned". A transmission line or other component may need to be de-energized for maintenance or for new construction, for example, adding or removing a transmission line or a transformer. To maintain reliability of supply, no company ever brings down its whole system for maintenance. All work to be performed, from routine testing to adding entirely new substations, must be done while keeping the whole system running.
Switchyard and Substation Construction & Maintenance
United Engineers Project planners, engineers and technicians are experienced in all aspects of substation design, construction, and maintenance. They have the necessary expertise to assemble, install, and maintain all substation equipment, including power transformers, circuit breakers, protective relay systems, capacitors, and load tap changers.
In partnership with the client's engineers, we can determine and implement the best solutions to system performance requirements. We can upgrade and retrofit existing facilities, as well as install state of the art new facilities. We commission clients’ new substations. We also provide a range of maintenance and installation services for switchgear applications in industrial and commercial facilities.
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