Electric utility companies are increasingly turning to Distribution Automation to help increase grid stability and reduce operations costs. With a broad variety of network choices available — public/private LTE, Wi-Sun 802.15.4 RF mesh — utilities are realizing the value of adopting multiple networking technologies to get the best cost structure for Distribution Automation (DA) communication. With the help of our Cisco Validated Design (CVD) for DA, power utilities can build a secure, scalable, easy-to-manage network infrastructure that extends all the way to the IoT edge.

Our latest update to the CVD provides a validated solution and practical design guideline for deploying Cisco Resilience Mesh for Fault Location, Isolation, and Service Restoration (FLISR). Along with the capabilities provided in earlier Cisco DA CVDs, utilities are enabled to operate FLISR, Vol-VAR optimization, and SCADA applications over Cisco Resilient Mesh and LTE. In addition, a universal network management system with single pane-of-glass visibility helps reduce network operations overhead. The CVD provides utilities the flexibility to combine various network technologies that best fit their use cases and regions to build multi-service field area networks (FAN).

Building a Distribution Automation architecture

As power utilities adopt distribution automation, they are looking to achieve several positive business outcomes. Power utilities benefit from increased profitability due to optimized voltage and a reduction in line loss and conservation voltage. DA also helps decrease service interruptions through improved asset monitoring, predictive maintenance, and security. The reduction in outages and outage duration help organizations meet regulatory requirements. Finally, distribution automation can increase reliability and efficiency of distributed energy resources.

In order to address the variety of DA use cases including FLISR, Volt-VAR optimization, equipment health monitoring, and distributed energy resource (DER) integration, power utilities must consider several key factors for networks in order to make the DA project successful, including:

  • Scalability
  • Resiliency
  • Security
  • Management and automation
  • Edge computing
  • Validated solutions

FLISR integrated with Cisco Resilient Mesh in the DA Cisco Validated Design

The new release of the Cisco Validated Design for Distribution Automation is jointly validated with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL). It tackles comprehensive FLISR use case coverage, including fault, broken jumper, loss of source, and overload. It accounts for urban to rural terrain and various distance and interference levels.

Innovations have been made to Cisco Resilient Mesh to provide higher performance, lower latency, enhanced security, and peer-to-peer communication, as well as support edge computing. In the joint DA solution validation with SEL, Cisco Resilient Mesh is proven to support feeders with multiple loops or 10-hop linear topology to reconfigure within 30 seconds, much faster than SAIDI/SAIFI’s criteria. Cisco Resilient Mesh consists of 1240/1120 Connected Grid Routers, IR530 Resilient Mesh Range Extenders, IR510 WPAN Gateways, and IoT Field Network Director (FND) network management system.

In order to provide a single pane-of-glass management for multi-service FAN, Cisco IoT Field Network Director (FND) is the network management system for the entire IoT Field Area Network. It provides a universal management experience for Cisco Resilient Mesh, as well as public or private LTE network enabled by Cisco 1101 Industrial Integrated Services Router. Cisco FND provides secure, zero-touch deployment at scale and currently manages over 8 million endpoints. Cisco IoT Field Network Director provides real-time critical infrastructure monitoring with geographical visualization of all network assets and enterprise-class visibility for gateways and endpoints. It also supports field device lifecycle management and application management.

With the advanced solution capabilities and validation combined with real Distribution Automation use cases, the DA Cisco Validated Design will enable power utilities to build modernized distribution grid with increased reliability, higher efficiency, lower total cost of ownership (TCO), enhanced security, and smooth DER integration. This solution was presented by Cisco at the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) Telecom & Technology Event 2020. Listen to the recording or refer to the published CVD.



Sean Song Jiang

Lead, Distributed Automation Solutions

Cisco IoT Solutions Group