Monitor, collect, decide: SCADA in renewable generation
What’s the right technology to keep tabs on our increasingly complex webs of power generation assets?
Collecting, combining, and distributing renewable energy is a complex business on many levels: differences in frequency and voltage, inconsistencies in power provided by each asset, assessment of the demand for the power, and capacity of the grid to take it.
Want more complexity? How about generating that power via a mix of 100 different wind farms and other renewable-generation facilities serving multiple energy markets spread across both the US and Canada. This project is actually underway, and it’s an impressive undertaking.
One of the biggest hurdles they have to overcome – and one of the essentials of success – is effective monitoring and control across the system. ABB is knocking down that hurdle with our SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) technology and dedicated applications for managing and integrating the power into electricity grids.
A key trait of SCADA is that it works across all types of generation assets. Wind, geothermal, hydro, solar, gas … whatever the energy source, we have a standard SCADA template to connect it to the network.
The first benefit operators gain is the ability to monitor all of the assets, both from a production perspective (how much energy is each producing?) and asset health perspective (what is its condition?). Answers to these two critical questions ensure operators get the most from each asset and avoid downtime surprises.
We make it possible to easily work with that data through a very lean and logical human-machine interface (HMI). These tend to be highly customized screens that are created with lots of input from the users on the desired look, feel, and function. There are two things that make for a highly effective HMI: they must provide a clear, big-picture view and the ability to drill down quickly to any point of interest.
When you have a portfolio of 100 generation assets, that big-picture view can be quite cluttered. We do a good job of organizing and displaying only the relevant, top-level information. When operators have to explore an issue or take action, they can rely on the customized shortcuts to minimize the number of mouse clicks needed to accomplish an action as simply and quickly as possible.
Beyond managing the assets at the operational level, SCADA provides the data necessary to make well-informed commercial predictions and decisions. The real-time and stored data enable more accurate, data-based forecasting both in the very-short term (hours) and near term (days). The internally focused operational data can be combined with the externally focused market and grid-status data to make the best choices about when, where, and who to sell energy to.
The US/Canada renewable energy project is impressive, but it’s not unique. Other energy providers are developing equally large and complex portfolios, and the scale of these portfolios is likely to grow even larger. One of the central benefits of SCADA is its scalability, making it the monitoring and control technology of choice for these vast energy webs. Through SCADA, renewable energy providers can operate most efficiently, increase revenue, and maximize the return on their investment.