How to Design a Smarter Remote Terminal Unit for Microgrids?

Microgrids are becoming mainstream solutions to improve power availability and optimize energy costs. In remote areas, microgrids replace traditional power grids by utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. In areas with traditional power grid supply, microgrids serve as alternative power resources during peak demand periods. Deploying multiple power resources can enhance power supply in emergency situations, such as natural disasters.

What advantages does a microgrid have that make it an effective alternative to traditional power grids? Microgrids actually have a higher level of communication, control, and automation, which increases their flexibility.

Communication within the remote terminal unit network

Microgrids utilize existing communication protocols. These protocols support various network topologies such as ring and star, making it easy to connect various resources together. Remote terminal units (RTUs) can act as front-end interfaces for each resource, communicating with a broader network, making demand management easier.

RTUs usually implement communication functionality by adding dedicated processors or FPGAs outside the host processor. To reduce the complexity of multi-processor designs, the processor includes a dedicated subsystem for deterministic real-time industrial communication. Communication functionalities that traditionally require custom development, such as pass-through switching and storm prevention, can be achieved.

Direct control of devices by remote terminal units

In addition to providing communication, RTUs can directly control devices such as capacitor banks or solar inverter controllers. Certain RTUs have additional input capabilities to directly read the current and voltage of devices. If the measured values exceed the preset range, the RTU may shut down or isolate the device for further investigation by utility providers.

RTUs can leverage their real-time capabilities to replace interface functionalities such as additional external FPGAs. A flexible interface reference design with multiple ADCs suitable for synchronous coherent DAQ describes how to receive multi-channel inputs from multiple analog-to-digital converters.

Conversion of data into actionable information by remote terminal units

Advanced microprocessors can capture more data than ever before. This may mean more frequent monitoring of critical resources or monitoring of previously unmonitored resources.

Having more information makes it easier to identify issues in the grid network. Once the problem area is identified, operators can accurately turn to specific devices without having to check multiple devices in the area. As a result, work efficiency is improved, leading to faster restoration of grid operations and cost savings.

RTUs can improve communication capabilities, enhance measurement and control levels, and enable edge intelligence, making them powerful solutions to drive the intelligence of microgrids. The core of these RTUs is the ability to meet the demanding requirements of industrial-grade processors.

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