ABB to build Latin America’s first digital substation alongside new 156 MW solar farm, publishes 2017 financials


Switzerland’s ABB is to build a digital substation in Brazil that will be the first of its kind anywhere in Latin America. The 230 kV substation and connection bay will help deliver solar electricity from a 156 MW PV plant to the Brazilian grid.

The project will see ABB employ its ABB Ability software to oversee the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and intelligent electronic devices (IED) of the Juazeiro II substation in northeast Brazil.

Digital fiber optic cables will be utilized in favor of copper cables as part of the ABB Ability substation, which will be fully IEC61850 open communication standard. The purpose of the digitally enabled substation is to transmit and distribute the solar electricity generated nearby vast distances across Brazil at faster and more secure speeds. By using digital fiber optics instead of copper, the substation can be installed at vastly reduced costs, ABB said.

Digital innovation in the substation industry also means the physical connection bay is much smaller, and thus requires less personnel for installation, supervision and maintenance. Remote monitoring and diagnostics also lessen the need for manual intervention.

The 156 MW solar farm is being developed by British firm Actis, via its Latin American subsidiary Atlas Renewable Energy. Once completed, the PV plant will mitigate the effect of 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, ABB said.

Last year, a similar digital substation project was completed by ABB in New York City, and the Swiss firm is currently working on Poland’s first digital substation, having been commissioned by Polish utility TAURON Dystrybucja SA.

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Firm financials

ABB also published its full year 2017 financial results today, which reflected strong demand in Europe and the Americas for the firm’s Power Grids and Industrial Automation sectors, with total orders increasing a respective 5% and 3% in the two regions.

Growth was weaker for ABB in AMEA (Asia, Middle East and Africa), with orders plunging 14% against 2016.

However, for the electrification divison of ABB – within which sits the firm’s solar inverters, digital platforms and low- and medium-voltage products and systems – order volumes were up 12% globally against 2016, with revenue a modest 2% higher year-on-year.

“In the transition year 2017, we shaped a streamlined and strengthened ABB. Now, our digital-first portfolio for customers in utilities, industry and transport and infrastructure is based on two clear value propositions: bringing electricity from any power plant to any plug,and automating industries from natural resources to finished products,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer.

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