Cyber-secure SCADA platform for Arkansas utility

Sunday, 01 April, 2018 | Supplied by: ESM Australia

Clwimage cropped

Clarksville Light & Water (CLW) is a municipally owned utility that has been serving the Clarksville, Arkansas, community since 1913. With annual revenues of approximately US$25 million, it provides retail electric, water and wastewater services to the community as well as water to eight other cities and water districts in the region on a wholesale basis. It plays a major role attracting new investment from the business community, driving job creation. Towards that end, CLW recently enhanced its municipal infrastructure with 26.9 km of 288-strand fibre cable in redundant loops throughout the city. CLW General Manager John Lester recognised the opportunity to leverage that investment into long overdue monitoring and control of the city’s four electrical substations and water treatment and distribution operations, and eventually its wastewater utility systems.

“A fibre network communication system was the most reliable, cost-effective and secure network we could put in place. It also offered the potential to layer in other revenue generation services, both internally and externally,” he said. “The fibre-optic network gave us a way to tap that new functionality for our remote operations.”

To that end, CLW has implemented a Bedrock Automation control system for cyber-secure SCADA RTU monitoring and control of its electric, water and wastewater utilities. The project is part of the city’s plan to save up to US$2 million over the next five years through improved control, monitoring and security of its electric grid and water treatment facilities.

“When we learned that choosing Bedrock as our RTU system would mean that military-grade cybersecurity was already built in, we saw a very cost-effective way to reduce cyber risk while also addressing looming NERC CIP compliance requirements,” said Lester.

With the new system in place, CLW now controls functionality via remote access for RTU sites as well as 24/7 automated and on-demand remote monitoring of key assets. That kind of connectivity enables the utility to optimise asset maintenance actions through custom email and text alerts based on real-time data. The system is already generating results according to Lester.

“This project has reduced overtime: a direct savings. Problems can be identified, sometimes even solved without having to physically be at the plant or in the field. That translates into cost savings, improved reliability and higher customer satisfaction,” he said.

Bedrock certified solution provider Brown Engineers, of Little Rock, Arkansas, completed the installation in the second quarter of 2016 and the system is now in full operation. Brown Engineers is a consulting engineering company that provides mechanical, electrical and automation systems. The company has extensive experience in SCADA, control systems and system integration for water, sewer and electric utilities.

Brown Engineers paired the Bedrock control platform with Inductive Automation’s Ignition software platform to deliver an integrated, secure open systems solution that enables Clarksville Light & Water to proactively manage critical infrastructure assets both on-site and remotely.

“We wanted each substation RTU to have enough horsepower to aggregate all power meter data and protective relay data for sequence of event recording,” said Dee Brown, PE and principal at Brown Engineering. “We also considered the future development needs for power management techniques that support demand management and load shedding controls.

“The Bedrock controllers provide all those features in an easy-to-manage integrated development environment (IDE) as well as built-in cybersecurity protections embedded at the hardware level.”

Each Bedrock controller uses an electromagnetic backplane instead of a traditional pin-based backplane, which eliminates pin corrosion and breakage, while improving long-term reliability. The electromagnetic backplane also contributes to the system’s high security by preventing the possibility of using counterfeit I/O modules. A galvanic isolation barrier between field wiring and the controller provides a high degree of electrical protection and reliability in electrically noisy environments — ensuring accurate measurement in the presence of high voltages like those found in power substations.

Brown explained it this way: “This platform scales easily from a single RTU or PLC to supporting a complex control network…and all applications can be engineered from the same dozen or so part numbers.”

Phone: 1300 376 288
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