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Automation of Substation Design


Autodesk Inc(US), AutomationForce(CAN)

Electrical controls and physical design within the substation design project can be very complex,
especially considering the number of drawing types and their relationships between devices, wiring,
and connections. The trend in the industry has been to humanly design these related project items and
manually track and update project data. Current efficiency improvements include development of
symbol libraries for substation specific devices and objects.

With technology available today, smart libraries and substation design specific tools can significantly
improve the design process. Built around a rule based design and database approach, devices and their
placement / connectivity in the substation design project can be intelligently placed, connections
made, and relationships managed automatically removing the tedious human effort from these tasks.
This paper will explore how the design knowledge and practices for substation design can be captured
and configured to improve design projects for Utilities.

Keywords: substation design, efficiency, BIM, 3D Design, data library, smart library

CIGR Canada
21, rue dArtois, F-75008 PARIS
(CIGRE-125) Conference on Power Systems
http : //
Vancouver, October 17- 19, 2010



Electric Power Systems (Utilities) are responsible for maintenance and operations of thousands of
substation assets across large territories. There are industry standard design rules and practices as well
as geography specific driven design practices that must be taken into account for new substations and
updates to existing substations. With the population shift and growth, green initiatives, smart grid
initiatives, there is a large work volume that are driving Utilities to develop best-practice business
processes and state of the art technologies to assist in executing against this increasing work volume.

What are the choices for Utility to meet this increasing workload? Add more staff or outsource to
consulting firms or Innovate for efficiency and effective design. To date, Utilities have done the
former add more staff, and / or outsource their design work. Recently Utilities have started to move
to knowledge based CAD technology that has smart libraries, database driven solutions for their
design platforms. Utilities see automated substation design as a key business requirement to meet their
growing project loads.

The business challenges Utilities face today in substation design are resource constraints based upon:

Maturing Work-force
Workers nearing retirement age
Substation design by tribal knowledge
Project Resourcing Costs
More projects to do with limited resources
Costs to use consulting partners

The number of tasks and data items that are required to produce a substation design package for
construction and commissioning are very resource intensive. Large projects can take 4-5 design
resources weeks even months to complete. Project design challenges exist in all facets of the design
project cycle:

Protection and Controls design
Civil design for site, foundations, grounding design
Structural design for major equipment, busing, and bare wire connectivity design
Design Checks
Asset management / Project inventory

Nearly everything Utilities do in the design package have re-use of devices and connections in a
construction package that can contain several hundred drawings. Today, Utilities are designing and
managing this data at every level of their business. Substation design data is created and located in
many different files - without any information dependencies nor is there any automation of the design
process. The current design process has a manual / human managed design process, which has the
same challenges for all Utilities:

Manual processes for creation / update of design data
Non-Integrated design data between phases
Manual processes for design data outputs
Manual process for design data update to external systems

These challenges lead to long project cycle times, data in-accuracy / errors, increased labor hours to
meet demand, and knowledge workers performing lower level functions.


Engineers and designers ask how do I find all the relevant data about a device? How am I sure I have
updated all the drawings that were relevant to a design change? How can I shorten the QA / design
check of my design and ensure I have high design accuracy? How can I easily place devices /
connections without having to do repetitive / simplistic CAD functions repeatedly?

Substation design practices and rules are well defined and documented in design guides [1].
Technology tools available today allow for a knowledge-based design following industry standard
IEEE design practices and utility specific design practices.

These design practices and rules provide the ability to create design content automatically or more
efficiently. Substation design specific technology tools allows the Utility to greatly reduce project
cycle time by 20% upwards to 50% [2].

There is a intelligent solution approach that solves a considerable amount of the design challenges
faced in a substation design project. Utilities can adopt a approach leveraging industry standard design
practices in a knowledge based design approach. Both protection and controls design in an intelligent
2D design application and physical design in an intelligent 3D design package is the target design
platform to enable improves design efficiencies. The key aspects of the approach are:

Substation Knowledge Library
Intelligent substation electrical symbol library
(sizing and selection of equipment)
Intelligent substation physical part library
(spacing and clearance of equipment / structure)
Design rules database for automated design
(Solution wizards to facilitate design)

Design data and changes to design data are done using intelligent design libraries and knowledge rules
to automate design and enforce design accuracy and fidelity. This is done by engineers and designers
in an integrated database environment where device / connections / routes are all related and managed
so when updates or design checks need to be made all drawing in the construction package are
accounted for. Users will have confidence that the data used for a particular project is consistent
across the design package while addressing business and technical requirements for the project.


How does this approach work?
Leveraging legacy data either from raster or vector format drawings.
Leveraging design criteria inputs such as voltage, ampacity, bus types, etc
Using intelligent symbols, the Protection and Control package can be created or updated
With knowledge based driven commands and a database managing device / connections /
routing - the design package can efficiently be generated.
Based on industry and utility specific design standards many design tasks can be automated
or facilitated more efficiently.
The physical 3D model is generated from the electrical schematic representation, design
criteria inputs, and specific knowledge rules.
Intelligent 3D parts allow for update to the physical model
3D model allows for spacing and clearance checks
3D model provides associated drawing package (general arrangement, section views, detailed
views, foundation, grounding, etc..)
2D and 3D central database manages project assets, bill of material
As a result of the above characteristics, the SDW will provide a consolidated, single point of truth
database that can be accessed by all business applications with standards based interfaces either via a
direct data connection (if supported by business applications) or via middle-tier services. This
approach also supports visualization of as-built data together with 3D imagery thus providing a close
to the real-world view. Moreover, the SDW will allow analyzing Utility network assets, complex data
structures, discover trends, and create comprehensive reports on the state of the electric network.


Implementing a Substation Design Solution (SDS) requires CAD technologies for 2D and 3D model
based design. Additionally, it requires a database centric architecture with overall user interface to
manage the design project, design criteria, and resultant design files. This approach allows the
association and relationship of project data to be managed and thus leveraged for automation of design
tasks. This technology also allows for creation and use of intelligent library parts for 2D design, for
example, users may place objects at the correct schematic location, then leverage substation design
wizards to update and complete the protection and control design package.

Another major component while is the relationship of the 2D schematic device in the 3D physical
model - the same object is correctly placed in physical arrangement location. Similar to the 2D design
wizards and intelligent library, the user can also leverage the 3D intelligent library and design wizards
to complete the physical design package.


Most Utilities have yet to realize the benefits of implementing a SDS solution. Technology has
recently evolved in the last 2-3 years and substation focused design solutions are now available and
being implemented by Utilities. There are tiered implementation approaches with clear delineations
points between the 2D Protection and Control design path and the 3D Physical design path. Both
paths provide business benefits:

Substation Design solution Business Benefits
Reduce design project cycle time
Reduce project modification cycle time
Reduce labor resource significantly
Improve design fidelity
Reduce field errors / scrap
Single design platform across division engineering teams
Single design platform with consulting engineering partners

A substation design solution can provide the above benefits listed above and have been recognized by
utilizes to date who have taken this knowledge based solution path outlined in this paper [2]. The
implementation of this type of solution has process, technical, and cultural aspects that need to be
addressed during the specification and deployment aspects of the project. Phased implementations
allow utilities to gain efficiencies early in the process and incrementally add automation functionality
over time and design projects. At some point the intelligent libraries and knowledge rules become
mature and updates to design projects are all done inside this design environment gaining maximum
business benefits.


Todays substation design processes are manual, extensive, error prone. Todays tools leverage some
level of standard libraries for design reuse. The disconnect between design disciplines creates another
layer of manual processes. Couple the current state of design with ageing infrastructure, increased
project workload and Utilities need new ways to execute their project life-cycle design.

Technology is now available today both from a 2D (for schematics, panel layouts, wiring diagrams,
cable schedules) and for 3D (general arrangements, structures, equipment electrical arrangement, civil
layout). Intelligent libraries in both 2D and 3D allows for package level design within 2D and 3D
tools. The capability to synthesize these technologies in a database centric architecture allows for all
elements of the project to be associated that provides many benefits in the substation design project.

Not to be overlooked with the technology - there are considerations when deciding to implement these
new technology platforms. Successful deployments have three legs to consider:

- Technology and how to adopt
- Design process changes and how to gain efficiencies
- Change management - how to manage cultural change in the organization

Successful adoption of next generation technology requires a clear vision of the business objectives,
technology requirements, and management support for change.


[1] Design Guide for Rural Substations, June 1978
[2] Duke Energy Transforms its Substation Design Process, Arnold Fry, Electric Energy Online Magazine,