Provincial Engineering & Geoscience Week


A Salute to Professional Engineers & Geoscientists

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4 WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2020 MARCH 1–7, 2020 PROVINCIAL ENGINEERING & GEOSCIENCE WEEK SPECIAL SECTION By Sherry Kaniuga When you catch sight of the gleaming, state-of-the-art Winnipeg offices of RTDS Technologies Inc. — encased in floor-to-ceiling glass, stretching out on stilts over a pond below — you just know something interesting and innovative is going on inside. F or 25 years, RTDS Technolo- gies has been helping utility companies, manufacturers, and research and educational insti- tutions run simulation tests to ensure their electrical power systems are oper- ating properly — and potential issues are mitigated — using the Real-Time Digital Simulator (RTDS® Simulator). Back in the mid-1980s, local engineers looking for a way to replace analog hardware large enough to fill the entire floor of an office building, dreamed up specialized computer hardware and software for simulating the power system in real time. They pioneered the world's first real-time digital simulation in 1989, then officially founded RTDS Technologies in 1994, introducing a new level of accessibility and flexibility. "They were ahead of their time. There was actually quite a bit of skepticism towards digital simulation and the market opportunity in general," says CEO Kelly McNeill. "The way they adapted and used existing processors was quite innovative. Once successful tests were done, people realized how powerful it was." The RTDS Simulator allows the user to create a network model which runs on specialized computer processing hardware in real time. This unique technology allows clients — electrical utilities, for example — to test how a device is behaving before physically deploying it on their grid. Customers in over 50 countries have used the RTDS Simulator to test devices in a closed loop — sending signals to a piece of equipment, then taking the response and sending it back into the simulated grid. "Closed-loop testing is the most comprehensive way to test protection and control devices, besides putting them in the field and subjecting the grid to scenarios which can be costly and potentially dangerous," McNeill explains. "This technology allows for 'de-risking' in a safe, controlled environment, allowing users to improve the reliability and security of their power, while improving their bottom line and making things more efficient and innovative." Manitoba Hydro has used the simulator for closed-loop testing of the control system for its Bipole III transmission line. This is one of many success stories from around the world, including hundreds of Factory Acceptance and Dynamic Performance Testing projects by Siemens, ABB, GE, and other manufacturers, as well as protection testing, renewable energy integration, cyber security simulation, and much more. Every time the company sells a simulator, two employees visit the customer to provide a five-day onsite training course, and the company provides ongoing support. "We have a team of power system engineers who are dedicated to supporting our users. They answer questions, troubleshoot and diagnose errors quickly and comprehensively," McNeill says. The simulation support team is one of several groups of highly trained and specialized personnel behind the different aspects of the technology. The development of industry-leading power system models, hardware down to the embedded level, user-friendly software, and product assembly and testing are all done in-house at the RTDS Technologies office. RTDS Technologies has grown and improved its systems over time, and in 2017 it introduced NovaCor, a new generation of sophisticated simulation hardware based on the IBM Power8 processor that allows simulations to be run faster and more accurately. Today the RTDS Simulator is known as the most trusted, powerful, and accurate real-time simulation technology worldwide. The company has grown to over 75 staff, more than half of them engineers, nearly all with degrees from the engineering program at the University of Manitoba, right next door. "Having a power systems research hub right here is very useful to us. The U of M has a really strong, internationally recognized power systems program, and we have a great relationship with them," McNeill says. Reducing risk with real-time digital simulation "We have a team of power system engineers who are dedicated to supporting our users." — Kelly McNeill PHOTOS BY MANUEL F. SOUSA PHOTOGRAPHY MIKE KARAKAS PHOTOGRAPHY

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