Resilient, Redundant Source of Secure Network Timing and Synchronization for Power Operators

By Taryn Engmark

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

April 27, 2022


Resilient, Redundant Source of Secure Network Timing and Synchronization for Power Operators

Power plants and substations rely on high-speed communications networks to transmit critical data including operability metrics, network health, fault monitoring, power measurement, and usage trends. To synchronize communications and ensure continuity across these networks, substations require secure, precise timing and synchronization to avoid false tripping and to provide accurate timestamping of substation data including system faults, power measurement data and substation status information.

Microchip Technology Inc.'s GridTime™ 3000 GNSS Time Server is a software-configurable solution providing substations with a new level of redundancy, security, and resiliency to assist power grid operators in meeting those above requirements.

The GridTime 3000 system generates precise time and frequency signals to synchronize analog and digital communication systems. This resilient timing platform incorporates multiple timing inputs for protection in the event of a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal disruption caused by severe weather, environmental disturbances, or signal jamming or spoofing.

Additionally, three levels of internal holdover options are available including a base Voltage Controlled Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator (VCTCXO) and an optional high-performance Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator (OCXO) or Rubidium oscillator option to extend holdover duration and enhance performance. 

Microchip’s newest precision time server is compliant with IEC 61850-3, the environmental component of IEC 61850, an industry standard that defines communication protocols for power substations. It is also compliant with IEEE 1613-2009, the international environmental and testing requirements standard for power substations. Compliance to these standards demonstrates high resistance to electrical transients and environmental extremes including temperature, humidity, and other factors and helps to ensure reliability in harsh substation environments.

Incorporating a hardware-based cryptographic assurance module, the GridTime 3000 system utilizes industry-standard Rivest, Shamir and Adleman (RSA)- and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-based encryption to protect against unauthorized configuration upload of malicious code.

The GridTime 3000 server, with a licensed feature model, provides greater flexibility than earlier technology, allowing clients to upgrade system technology as needed. Developed with input from customers, the GridTime 3000 server offers ten 1000BASE-T Ethernet (1 Gbps) ports for high-speed synchronization using Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and Network Time Protocol (NTP). 

This technology complements Microchip’s other timing and synchronization solutions including the TimePictra®Synchronization Management System providing status and configuration support, BlueSky™ GNSS Firewall for protecting GNSS systems against threats from jamming and spoofing, and interoperability with the TimeProvider® 4100 timing server family.

Development Tools

Microchip’s GridTime 3000 GNSS Time Server includes an internal web browser management interface, Clock Management Tool (CMT), which provides configuration and management for remote managing and monitoring of the device and an array of accessories including a multi-band, multi-constellation GNSS receiver system and cold-swappable power supplies.

For more information, visit Microchip.