Four uses for IEC61850 at the edge of the smart grid

Feature articles |
By Nick Flaherty

IEC61850 is being used in a number of ways for the monitoring, control and protection of systems at the edge of the power grid.

Vehicle-to-Grid Services

Protocols that link vehicles and chargers, in particular OCPP, are well-established, but IEC61850 extends these links to other power systems, enabling a wider range of vehicle-to-grid services. IEC61850-90-8 outlines modelling of e-mobility standards for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, enabling efficient interoperation with other power systems. The charging schedules of electric vehicles can then be regulated to meet the demands of the wider system, balancing out fluctuations in demand and improving the quality of supply.

Hybrid Wind & Storage

On particularly windy days, surplus energy is often generated by wind assets, especially in areas with a high penetration of wind power. Linking wind assets to storage technology provides a way of capturing this excess power, preventing the need to disconnect the assets and waste the energy. IEC 61400-25 provides an extension for IEC61850 for wind power, enabling complex control of wind power in conjunction with storage. This creates a virtual power plant that can provide services to grid such as primary reserve and reactive power, as well as being able to operate in islanded mode and store excess wind power.

A collaboration between Vattenfall, Nordex and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences combines a 1 MW battery with a 13 MW wind farm to investigate the operation and integration of hybrid systems and assess ways of improving turbine life.

Combined Heat and Power

Combined heat and power systems provide an attractive way of reducing carbon emissions, producing heat as a by-product of electricity generation. While simply installing a CHP system in a large building can produce efficiency savings, providing grid services through intelligent control with IEC 61850 will have further benefits for both the system owner and the wider grid.

More IEC61850 uses:

Frequency response, standby power and load frequency control can all be achieved with CHP plants, all the while providing heating for local residents and business. The CHPCOM project, a Danish collaboration between EURISCO, Dansk Energi and Energinet, is the first implementation of this kind, generating new possibilities for the Danish utilities market through improved data exchange.


IEC61850-7-420 defines control and communication interfaces for DER devices including reciprocating engines, fuel cells, microturbines, photovoltaics, combined heat and power, and energy storage. This enables intelligent control of complex systems in both islanded and grid-connected modes. While other protocols can be used to achieve this, IEC 61850 supports advanced control and monitoring possibilities, enabling the delivery of complex services such as demand response to improve the flexibility of the wider grid.

IEC61850 is playing a key role in delivering a more decentralized energy system through advanced control of grid edge assets. While the potential impact is huge, these implementations are in their relative infancy when compared with the more established substation applications. 

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