Nations First Purpose-built ISO Prepares to Go Online

Nation`s First Purpose-built ISO Prepares to Go Online

By Ed Riley, Real Time Dispatch, California ISO, and Ric Laycock, Mauell Corp.

This year marks the launch of the nation`s first purpose-built Independent System Operator (ISO). This landmark power reliability operation, the first of its kind in the U.S., ensures equal transmission access to all power generators while maintaining the system`s reliability.

All eyes are now watching California, which hopes to be the model future ISO`s emulate. Eyes are also watching a state-of-the-art 160 foot by 12 foot mosaic mapboard and video display wall in the ISO`s 15,000-square-foot control center. The impressive mapboard enables the ISO to monitor the security and transmission reliability of California`s 500 kV lines, as well as those extending into BC Hydro, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.

Seeing the Big Picture

Located in Folsom, with a fully redundant control facility in Alhambra, the California ISO was commissioned by the state legislature in late 1996 and incorporated by the California ISO Restructuring Trust into a non-profit entity to guarantee utilities have equal access to transmission in the open market. The ISO`s additional function is maintaining power reliability across its 50,000 MW control area, the second largest system in the world. Primary emphasis is also on the 500 kV transmission backbone.

California`s extensive control area, including both transmission and generation, are graphically displayed on the dynamic mapboard using over 230,000 24-mm square mosaic tiles that snap in place to form a continuous mapboard surface. The board`s schematics are predominantly geographic. The control area mosaic is divided into four sections. They include Oregon and Northern California, represented on the board`s center and Southern California represented on the right. A separate 500 kV schematic is located on the left side of the mosaic.

The mapboard uses dynamic indication to show voltages and generation at critical locations on both the 500 kV schematic and other sections. Digital readouts showing numerical values and LEDs at generation stations indicating breaker status, general fault or intrusion are incorporated directly into the tiles to depict system status and help maintain reliability. The high degree of visibility allows operators to clearly view the board and check real time system security from any one of 12 dispatcher consoles, or from any other location on the control room floor.

According to John Theotonio, ISO`s dispatch trainer, the mapboard`s greatest benefit is during major system excursions when it allows operators to quickly evaluate the overall system condition and determine corrective strategy for restoring the system to normal.

The ISO originally considered using video displays exclusively. After careful engineering analysis, problem determination and solution evaluation, the ISO ultimately felt using a mosaic mapboard in combination with an ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) man/machine interface (MMI), augmented by large video units, made the system more reliable. It also provided operators with the best available tools to accomplish their mission. Should host computers fail, causing the mapboard to lose dynamic capabilities, operators would still have a static overview of the entire control area.

“Our job is maintaining transmission reliability 365 days a year, so we needed a system we could always count on no matter what we encountered,” said Theotonio. “The Mauell mosaic mapboard met all our requirements. It gives a grand picture of critical situations in an instant, while acting as a long term planning tool so we can respond to conditions before they become problems.”

From a security standpoint, the mosaic mapboard portion of the system is an easy way to manage the restoration of the California electric system. The video portion of the system can be used to pinpoint trouble spots, even on the mapboard, and then project them onto the large screen in greater detail for every operator to view simultaneously, thus minimizing restoration time.

“This is one of the most intricate mapboard`s in existence,” said Mauell Corp. sales engineer John Bates. “Myriads of information were incorporated into this system and the end result is one big, comprehensive picture of the entire operation.”

The Best of Both Worlds

The combination video/mosaic display system specified by the ISO project team also monitors transmission reliability for the Western Systems Coordinating Council (WSCC). As a WSCC security coordination office, the California ISO monitors transmission security for part of 16 Western states, including generation, schedules and tieline flows.

Mauell selected four Electrohome Marquee 9500 CRT projectors situated in side-by-side horizontal configuration to operate as a unit projecting WSCC transmission data onto four 120-inch Fresnel lenticular projection screens. At times, the screen is windowed to show different details of the WSCC grid or to receive outside television input for monitoring satellite weather conditions.

This lenticular screen design provides an almost 180 degree horizontal viewing angle and ambient light rejection, providing operators with comfortable visibility. The screen`s images give a balance of resolution and brightness which provides a high degree of visibility, even in this well lit control room.

One of the long-term advantages of the ISO`s mapboard is that changes can be made to the graphic display without destruction to the overall panel. Changes can be made by simply “popping” tiles from their grid position and “snapping” new ones in place. Mauell`s unique “snap in” tile design gives operators the flexibility to “change-on-the-fly,” keeping the mosaic synchronized with the electric system as it changes. Operators can update the mapboard quickly, easily and affordably, while maintaining maximum operational efficiency.

“Initially, changes for the first few years will be minor, but we`ll be able to easily handle more involved updates to the mapboard when the INDIGO and Desert Star ISO`s go online,” adds Theotonio. The flexibility of the mosaic system also helped address a space constraint problem at the redundant facility in Alhambra. To solve this problem, Mauell supplied an 18 mm mosaic tile board allowing the ISO to populate the Alhambra mapboard with the same amount of dynamic indication and graphic detail as seen on the larger Folsom board.

Talking Up a Storm

Once the ISO goes online, it is predicted that between 50,000 to 70,000 transactions will occur each day. Mauell worked with ABB`s System Controls Co. to develop the communication interface which allows data to flow from ABB`s EMS computer system to Mauell`s I/O control system to display critical electric system parameters on the mosaic.

The mapboard is designed to supplement MMI CRT monitors located on operator consoles by adding a geographical perspective, indicating status or existing problems with a real time field view. Mauell DO128 and BCD64 I/O controllers are being used without their redundancy feature, demonstrating the faith the project`s contract manager, Duke Engineering & Services Inc., had in the reliability of the communication interface and Mauell`s I/O hardware.

The ISO`s five month fast-track construction schedule provided no time to develop an EMS communication infrastructure. Instead, the EMS relies on preexisting computer systems to supply data using an ICCP protocol and servers. As a result, the EMS can read any information sent to the ISO in real time.

More Power to You

When the California ISO control center goes live, utilities will be assured to have the power they need anytime, anywhere. It`s a new approach to doing things, and the ISO is used to it.

“The typical approach is to allow multiple years for this type of project,” said Steve Harris, Duke Engineering project manager, “but open access deadlines required fast track schedules on all aspects of the project. It`s basically unheard of in this industry to complete a project of this magnitude in five months. From June 25, 1997, Mauell, with the cooperation of all team members, designed, manufactured and installed both control center mapboards to meet our November deadline. This proves the point that a dedicated group of people working together as a team can move mountains in short time spans.”

Author Bios

Ed Riley is the manager of dispatch and security coordination for the California ISO. He has 29 years of experience in the utility industry, primarily with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). His last position at DWP was manager of bulk power dispatching. His experience includes both thermal generation and substation operations and he has served as the chairman of the WSCC Dispatcher Training Subcommittee and is currently serving on the NERC Security Coordination Subcommittee, NERC Performance Subcommittee and the WSCC Performance Work Group. Riley holds a bachlor`s of science degree from the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif.

Rick Laycock is utility manager for the Mauell Corp., a provider of mosaic mapboards and video display walls, control room design services and operator consoles to the electric utility industry. He has over 25 years experience in the electric utility business and holds a bachelor`s of science degree in electrical engineering from Norwich University.

Click here to enlarge image

The high degree of visibility provided by the mosaic mapboard enables operators to clearly view the board from any position in the ISO`s control room. The enables operators to clearly assess the status of the system. Photo courtesy of Steve Simmons.

Click here to enlarge image

Click here to enlarge image

(Above) Over 230,000 mosaic tiles comprise the ISO`s Mauell mapboard that graphically displays California`s extensive control area. Generation, and voltages at critical locations are displayed digitally. LEDs show line loading and breaker status. (Below) Mauell BCD32 and DO128 I/O controllers were integrated at various locations on the back of the mapboard to drive the dynamic LEDs and digital read-outs. The distributed system provided a high degree of flexibility, reliability and expandability. Photos courtesy of Steve Simmons.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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