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By Nishan Baijnath. Systems Architect, Power Systems, Digital Automation at Schneider Electric

The consequence of loadshedding on municipalities’ primary plants and substations have been discussed ad nauseum.  The reality is municipalities are in proverbial survival mode, which is why realistic solutions should be provided to, by and large, prevent equipment and unplanned outages

With municipalities’ distribution centres and equipment taking immense strain due to load shedding, maintenance has unfortunately moved down the priority list.  The time is now to implement what municipalities can control - protecting and monitoring installed equipment.


Protection relays play a fundamental role in the protection of both man and machine.  For example, a protection relay can prevent incidence such as arc flash which has the potential to cause devastating damage to substations and worse, injury or even death.


However, not all options are equal; ideally a protection relay should be easy to install, require very little power to run, protect LV and MV distribution systems and control live distribution from a safe distance.


Why protection relays


Protection relays are, in essence, smart devices that receive input, compare it to set points, and provide output. Inputs include current, voltage, resistance, or temperature while outputs incorporate visual feedback in the form of indicator lights and/or alphanumeric display, communications, control warnings, alarms, and turning the power off and on.


In layman’s terms, a protection relay can detect abnormal conditions in the electrical system and automatically operate the circuit breaker to isolate this condition.


Importantly, once a protection relay detects a fault, it will operate automatically and operate the breaker’s trip circuit. The faulty circuit will therefore be disconnected from the system and the circuit breaker will be open.


Considering the above, there are several important features that municipalities and industrial facilities should look for when implementing a protection relay.  At Schneider Electric, we recommend the following:


  • Easy-to-use- a protection relay should save time and money with simplified configuration and operating processes. Our Schneider Electric Easergy P1 protection relay can be configured with an HMI (human machine interface) and mounted in a matter of seconds with spring clips. Easy operation with a built-in, dedicated circuit breaker control
  • Versatile – it should be optimised for MV protection on overcurrent, voltage, and frequency and serve as main protection on LV applications when ANSI functions are required. Support for serial communications ensure integration with control systems, providing operators with accurate information at critical times,
  • Flexible - it should be optimised for compact switch gears and offer graded functionality tailored to specific applications. In a nutshell, its design should allow for a variety of new and retrofit installations. The Easergy P1 can be used in a feeder, motor, or generator application.
  • Enhanced safety and reliability - an insulated casing and non-volatile memory for settings and records as well as clock retention (for at least three days) and minimal power consumption.


In the case of our P1 protection relay, it features a plastic casing which prevents corrosion due to humidity and chemicals.  Furthermore, the P1 is tiny; 106mm x 106 mm which means it takes up very little space whilst still playing a vital role in keeping facilitates safe.


Ultimately, protection relays are non-negotiable part of any electrical system, providing operational stability and, importantly, safety.





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