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How To Monitor Clean Energy With SCADA Technology

By Ziad Alezabi

February 16, 2024

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Clean energy is a future that we constantly strive towards. However, monitoring the clean energy industry is a challenge due to the following issues:

  1. The inability to integrate: SCADA systems that monitor multiple types of clean energy sources (ex. solar, wind, etc.) can run into issues due to needing different communication protocols and monitoring hardware.
  2. Inaccurate data: SCADA systems rely on data that is transferred across protocols, communication methods, and devices to monitor and control your clean energy systems accurately. You will run into an issue when a sensor malfunctions and you aren't kept aware of it.
  3. Cost of installation: It is no secret that installing SCADA can be costly. Maintaining and upgrading SCADA is also costly.
  4. Security risk: A network security issue isn't always an outside intruder. It can also mean data corruption.
  5. Scaling and future-proofing: Scaling your clean energy monitoring system involves taking into account your existing infrastructure. If you do not pair with a good SCADA manufacturer, you will be forced to pay a lot of money. A bad manufacturer will also deadlock you and render you unable to integrate with future technology as it comes out.
  6. Lack of failure-response: SCADA systems that don't have a failure backup method are not reliable enough for your clean energy sources. During a device or system malfunction, you will be grateful to have a manufacturer capable of system and device-level redundancy.

Combining the factors above with the fact that your in-house maintenance crew needs to be constantly updated with instructions about new equipment, SCADA systems start to sound complicated. However, a good SCADA system and manufacturer will be able to mitigate all your fears

Solar plant
SCADA systems can help you monitor the performance of your solar PV plants.

What is SCADA?

SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) monitors and controls your industrial systems, including clean energy. It includes:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Communication protocols
  • Data Annunciation & Display

The biggest benefit to owning a SCADA system is that you can remotely monitor and control your equipment. This saves you valuable time and money.

You are also sending all information to a centralized location, this means that you will be able to offer your in-house crew a flexible and easily understood human-machine interface (HMI).

Monitoring Windmills with SCADA

The first step to monitoring our hypothetical windmill farm would be collecting data. This means that you will need to monitor:

  • Wind speed (via anemometer)
  • Wind direction (via windsock + orientation sensor)
  • Rotor speed (via tachometer, this is usually built-in)
  • Energy being outputted by the windmill

Afterward, that data needs to be sent to an RTU (remote telemetry unit). The RTU at each wind turbine will communicate with your SCADA's central system by using your communication network. There are multiple ways to set up networks, and you may even want network redundancy. Examples of a network are:

  1. Wireless radio mesh.
  2. Cellular.
  3. Fiber Optic.

Once you have your network in place, you need to communicate using Modbus, DNP3, or any other standard protocol for your industry's communication.

Finally, you would annunciate this data to a master station where it would present the information to your in-house crew in an easy-to-read format.

Monitoring Solar Power with SCADA

Photovoltaic (PV) arrays can be monitored by SCADA systems. You can use SCADA to monitor parameters such as solar irradiance, which is the power per area unit that is received from the sun.

You can also monitor panel temperature and voltage output to make sure that your PV arrays are functioning correctly.

That information would then be transported through an RTU over DNP3 or Modbus.

All RTUs monitoring your solar panels would then report back to the SCADA master station and display to your in-house crew on an HMI.

Monitoring Hydro-electric Power with SCADA

SCADA systems effectively monitor water levels in Hydroelectric Dams via monitoring:

  • Turbine speed
  • Generator output

This ultimately helps in optimizing dam operations, managing water flow, and preventing overflow or shortages.

Run-of-River Hydroelectric Systems utilize SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems to efficiently manage the flow of water through turbines.

These systems not only regulate water flow but also closely monitor energy output, ensuring maximum electricity generation while minimizing the environmental impact.

By employing precise control mechanisms, Run-of-River Hydroelectric Systems play a crucial role in sustainable energy production and contribute to the preservation of our natural resources.

What Makes a Good SCADA System

A good SCADA system will include the following:

  1. Good reliability: It will include redundant systems, redundant hardware, and redundant protocols that ensure your system's reliability in the event of a failure.
  2. Scalability: All good SCADA systems are scalable. Your operations will most likely grow, and you deserve to be sure that you can grow your monitoring capabilities without any headaches.
  3. Security: A good SCADA system will operate in your own closed network and have secure protocols such as SNMPv3, Modbus, etc. It will also include data logging incase of any data corruption that occurs in the transferring process.
  4. Flexibility: Flexibility and scalability go hand in hand with each other. Your in-house crew can operate better with a customizable interface that works for them. They will also benefit from customizable alarms that can be monitored through easy-to-understand text that they would receive on their phone and/or in their email.
  5. Interoperability: Does your equipment have bi-directional communication? Can your equipment communicate with each other? Do you use open or closed standards? Does your SCADA system have an HMI to make operating it easier? All good SCADA systems should ensure that these are key features.

Aside from the key points above, you want to ensure that your SCADA system being provided by your manufacturer has sensors and other types of environmental measurement equipment to give you full visibility of your equipment.

What Makes a Good SCADA Manufacturer

Choosing the right SCADA manufacturer for you is the most important step when shopping for a monitoring solution. After all, the equipment you install is only as good as the manufacturer.

When you choose a good manufacturer, you ensure efficiency and reliability. Part of being a reliable SCADA system is having good customer support.

A good manufacturer will be glad to help get your system back up and running, especially in emergencies. This includes training your team, providing in-depth documentation, and 24/7 customer support.

You may also want to look for manufacturers that offer you:

  • Trade-in discounts to save you money wherever possible
  • Integration with dead systems
  • Constant product and software updates
  • A proven industry track record for security, compliance, and reliability.

Partnering with the right manufacturer for your clean energy SCADA monitoring needs ensures that you set your operation up for automated success.

DPS Telecom Can Integrate All Your Clean Energy Monitoring

DPS Telecom is a SCADA system manufacturer that expands your growth potential. At DPS, we offer you the same capabilities but at different storage levels and price tags.

For example, we have multiple tiers of RTUs that will perfectly fit your budget, whatever it may be, without compromising your required monitoring power.

In addition, we offer site visits, training seminars, and comprehensive documentation to empower your in-house technicians and maintenance crew. They will be able to restore your online operations in the event of any malfunction.

We also provide you with 24/7 emergency tech support in the event of an RTU or master station failing. Our service and equipment are our reputation, and we want to do it justice.

DPS Telecom offers you everything you need to monitor your oxygen trimming, and we also set you up for success with our 30% off RTU trade-in program so that we can nurture a long-running relationship.

Although our RTUs end up being replaced due to newer technology being available instead of a device failure, we will trade your older RTU for a new one for a 30% discount no matter the condition.

If you would like to know more about how we can fully monitor and service your oxygen trimming with our SCADA systems, or if you have a similar but different application that you think we can monitor for you, give me a call now.

In the unlikely event that we can't find a solution working together, I will still do my best to point you in the correct direction

Call today at 1-800-693-0351 or E-mail me at sales@dpstele.com

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Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi is a Application Documentarian at DPS Telecom. He reviews successful DPS client projects and reports on the best practices that you can use to successfully reach your own project goals.