Grand Coulee spillway  Credit: David Brodbeck

A new power control system at North America’s largest power plant – the 6.8GW Grand Coulee dam – is now operational using RTI Connext(TM) DDS.

The system was provided by Real-Time Innovations (RTI), the real-time communications platform for the Internet of Things company, as part of an upgrade project carried out by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to replace an aging supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system with a modern, secure distributed control system. The new system relies on RTI Connext DDS for its fundamental communications platform.

The Grand Coulee Dam control system delivers extreme availability, fault tolerance, performance, security and wide-area communications. When fully deployed, it must control 24 power turbines and 12 pumps. It comprises four major power plants, three high voltage transmission switchyards, and a fully-redundant control room. It must distribute up to 300 thousand data values reliability over large distances. For such critical infrastructure, reliability is key, the dam must never go offline unexpectedly.

"This is perhaps the most challenging and mission-critical control system in the power industry," commented Dave Brown, Chief of the USACE Automated Controls and Cyber Security branch. "The RTI middleware implements our communications, module failover, wide-area routing, control room integration, and operator interface. Our extensive tests proved that the new control system is capable of handling all our performance, scale, reliability, and scalability requirements."

"The Grand Coulee Dam is a key national asset," added Stan Schneider, RTI’s CEO. "There is perhaps no greater challenge than to simultaneously deliver both state-of-the-art technology and ultra-mature operation. I am indescribably proud of the RTI and USACE teams that achieved this success."

The new control system passed its System Acceptance Test and officially went live in the control room and the first generator on January 15, 2014. Over the next few years, this system will be installed on many other hydropower systems across the US, said RTI.

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Image: Grand Coulee Dam (Source: David Brodbeck)