Transforming public transport with digital substations
The next generation of energy transmission hardware gives asset operators insight into their system by delivering key data to a cloud-based storage and visualization platform. The expansion of Cairo’s Metro Line 3 showcases how real-time information can deliver efficiency gains and make public infrastructures future-ready.
By Christopher Findlay
When we think of life in the digital age, the basic image that immediately comes to mind is that of a network – a mesh of sensors, nodes, and interconnections through which information is exchanged in order to enhance and improve more traditional infrastructure grids such as communications and energy systems or transport networks. The ability to generate and transmit data in real time can make such physical assets more efficient.
In the power transmission and distribution sector, it has taken longer to harness the advantages of digitalization than elsewhere. But with the arrival of virtual sensors, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things, it is now possible to make power grids more intelligent and enable them to manage the complex operations that are necessary for mitigating climate change and matching the constant growth of energy demand in a globalized world – including by minimizing losses, boosting efficiency, and integrating renewables.
Future-ready public transport
The benefits of a digital energy transmission system are being showcased in the ongoing project to expand Cairo’s public transport system, where Siemens Energy – working together with local partners – is providing electrification for the expansion of Metro Line 3. When completed, this major public works scheme will link Cairo International Airport with the city center. With a population of 9.5 million and a greater metropolitan area that is home to 30 million people, the Egyptian capital is the world’s sixth-largest city and the largest in Africa and the Middle East. As such, it suffers from many of the ills that are characteristic of modern mega-cities, including congestion, overburdened infrastructure, and an energy system that is marked by inefficiency, unsustainable carbon emissions, and occasional power outages.
The Cairo Metro, inaugurated in 1987, was the first in the Arab world and serves 3.6 million commuters every day. Line 3 was opened in February 2012, but is still under construction. Upon completion, the line will be approximately 30.6 km in length. To ensure that services run punctually and efficiently, the electrification will be based on advanced power transmission and digitalization solutions. In this way, as new connections are added to the public transport network, its digital connectivity will also be greatly enhanced. The complete integration of the system’s components will allow the operator to see all relevant data from their power transformers and manage their assets accordingly.
Digital electrification boosts efficiency
In addition to automation, protection, and telecommunication components, the project encompasses several elements giving operators access to a cloudbased platform application that visualizes the collected data and enables a comprehensive overview of all the power assets in real time. These include digitalized gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) for a long and efficient service life; a digital substation operating system, which makes the system more reliable and easier to control; and digitalized power transformers.
The benefits of being able to access and display system data are obvious: The connectivity between substations and control rooms allows operators to analyze the overall performance of the grid and manage its individual elements. They can adapt to variables such as weather or passenger data, respond to outages or carry out diagnostics in order to create more value, and adjust energy flows for optimized lifetime consumption. For safety and security reasons, there is no functionality for actively influencing the reliable operation of the assets.
“ Through these solutions, we will improve availability and reliability of power systems and make sure they achieve greater efficiency while ensuring environmental protection. ”Mahmoud Hanafy, Senior Vice President, Siemens Energy Transmission Solutions, Middle East
All these elements contribute to maintaining a reliable energy supply and help ensure that Cairo’s commuters reach their destinations as scheduled. “To keep a metro system running on time, and efficiently, the system requires a reliable supply of energy. That’s why we have combined advanced power transmission and digitalization solutions for the electrification of Cairo’s new metro line,” says Mahmoud Hanafy, Senior Vice President for Siemens Energy Transmission Solutions in the Middle East. “Through these solutions, we will improve availability and reliability of power systems and make sure they achieve greater efficiency while ensuring environmental protection. The project is also a prime example of Siemens Energy’s focus on powering the transportation sector, and the new line is an important project that will enhance the lives of millions of Egyptians and help improve mobility in the capital city.”
The Metro project complements the use of Siemens Energy technology in approximately half of Egypt’s substations, which has improved the stability and responsiveness of the national grid. In addition, in 2018, construction was completed on three highly efficient 14.8 GW combined-cycle Siemens Energy power plants at Burullus, New Capital, and Beni Suef. Today, 26 percent of Egypt’s electricity generating capacity is based on Siemens Energy technology, as is a large proportion of its transmission and distribution network.
Next-generation smart transmission
At a time when energy systems are becoming more complex in an increasingly globalized world, where the urgent need for climate action meets a growing demand for sustainable electrification to deliver environmentally friendly, affordable, and reliable energy, digitalization provides new business opportunities and technology options. With rapid access to reliable and accurate system data, cloud-connected substations can be managed continuously, and faults can be easily identified, resolved, and even predicted before they occur. As more and more information accumulates, it will be possible to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to extrapolate the remaining lifetime of the system and optimize its usage.
“ To keep a metro system running on time and efficiently, the system requires a reliable supply of energy. That’s why we have combined advanced power transmission and digitalization solutions for the electrification of Cairo’s new metro line. ”Mahmoud Hanafy, Senior Vice President, Siemens Energy Transmission Solutions, Middle East
The new Siemens Energy class of digital connective transformers (Sensformer) and switchgear (Sensgear) includes sensors to monitor all key parameters, ranging from oil levels and temperature to GPS coordinates. Information is transmitted using state-of-the-art cybersecurity and encryption.
In fact, connectivity is now a feature of the entire Siemens Energy portfolio of high-voltage products, ranging from power and distribution transformers and high-voltage switchgear to circuit breakers, bushings, instrument transformers, arresters, and coils – all of which are equipped with a secure digital layer by default and provide added value in terms of information sent to intelligent apps.
With this range of solutions, intermittent loads in the network can be managed without shutting down the system or damaging the assets. This is a game changer in the integration of renewable energy and a significant step towards achieving global climate protection targets. By enhancing physical infrastructure networks with layers of connectivity to form digital webs, operators not only get a comprehensive picture of what is happening to their assets in real time; they can also rest assured that they will be able to get the best possible performance from their future-ready networks for years to come.
Aug 10, 2020
Christopher Findlay is a journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He writes about new developments in business and technology, among other topics.
Combined picture credits: Siemens Energy, Getty images
Opened / February 2012
Planned length / 30.6 km
SIMATIC Substation Automation System /
1 × 66 kV SAS for Cairo Regional Control Center
1 × 22 kV SAS for Metro Line 3 Power Control Point
Sensgear (digitalized gas-insulated switchgear) / 145 kV
Sensformer (digitalized power transformers) /
66/20kV; 3 × 35 MWA
Fourth expansion phase / 12 stations from
Haroun al-Rashid to Cairo International Airport