During the past decade, the energy industry has undergone major transformations in infrastructure redevelopment and the introduction of game-changing advancements in power systems technology. With these major leaps forward, the important process of protection and control commissioning, which verifies, documents and places into service newly installed or retrofitted electrical power equipment and systems, has become increasingly critical.
Yet, the push for these advancements has created something of an unfortunate and unforeseen gap in the industry. Many qualified personnel who truly understand protection and control commissioning are becoming harder to find due to retirement of the aging workforce and a smaller number of young professionals entering to replace them. This lack of competency in some quarters occurred as the technology vastly improved, while training and certification programs for technicians substantially lagged behind. In fact, what used to take seven to 10 years of intense education, mentoring and final certification have been compressed into just a few years as a way to catch up. This has created a production line of less qualified technicians who may not possess the required knowledge or comprehension of the commissioning process and the very equipment that needs inspection. Deep understanding of protection and control standards, NERC, new technologies, a reconfigured power grid system, and the equipment itself, are requirements among technicians necessary to be proficient and accurate in their commissioning work.
One simply needs to look at the new processes and advances in relay equipment to get a view of how things have changed in commissioning services. The baseline of protection and control standards has always revolved around electromechanical relays, the true marvels of technology that are as old and dependable as those who invented or improved upon them, like Tesla, Edison and Ford. These protective relays work between normal and expected operating conditions and the inevitable system faults that come with any power distribution system. The tried-and-true electromechanical relays detect power system conditions and provide a measured and appropriate fault response with repeatability and reliability during decades of in-service time. Electromechanical relays are amazing technology, and those who invented them are responsible for the kind of reliability and safety that our power systems enjoy today.
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