What is the substation design process?

When building an electric substation, there is a very specific design process that every engineering team must follow. These steps can also be applied when retrofitting an old substation. While it’s difficult to narrow down this complex engineering process to just a few steps, it can serve as a guideline while developing a new substation.

Switching station:

The first step in the process is to select the switching station that would be most appropriate for your location and the existing electrical system. This involves selecting the breaker, ring bus, and other parts of the switching station.

Key plan:

The next crucial step is to prepare a detailed key plan of the substation. This plan should indicate where each component of the station is going to be, as well as how they are going to be connected. The plan should also show the location of items such as the driveway and fence.


Once the plan is in place, it’s time to select the type of equipment for your substation. Typically there will be a designated expert on the team that selects the type of equipment for the station and orders it.

Licensing and permitting:

Engineers are a crucial part of the licensing process for a substation. This phase includes presenting information about the substation at public hearings and conducting studies about the public impact of the station.

Structural design:

This is the process of designing the structure that will contain the electrical components. This includes the foundation of the substation, the control house, and the steel structures that will house the electrical connections.

Electrical design:

This is the most crucial part of the design process. This step involves designing the layout of the electrical components in the substation and designating where they will go. This includes, but is not limited to, designing the AC power system, the DC batteries, the manhole system, and the entire positioning of the electrical equipment.

Relay protection and remote control:

This step essentially involves designing the relay wiring between electrical components. At this point, the remote control aspects of the design should also be addressed.

Construction support:

During this step, the engineering team supports the construction team to make sure the station is accurately built. This also includes correcting any design issues that come up during the construction process. It also may include ordering additional materials, including SCADA software.