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Effectively managing assets on a smart grid is only achievable through the capture, storage and interpretation of vast amounts of data from physical assets. However, renewable energy sources like solar rely on low- or medium voltages, and monitoring these can be more challenging than traditional sources. The sources can be unpredictable. For instance, because the sun shines at certain times, solar panels feed energy back into to the grid periodically. This can lead to potential instabilities and disruptions in the grid. What’s more, conventional remote monitoring systems — aside from being expensive — can be ill-suited to the task of interpreting fluctuating data.
These were the challenges faced by Juva, a Netherlands-based energy network management company who works together with the grid operator Westland Infra on Distribution Automation. It manages a smart grid covering an area of 25 to 30 square kilometres in Westland, the Netherlands., which involves monitoring around 250 substations in the region. They were seeking a better solution for remote monitoring and managing low- and medium-voltages on the grid, and needed a flexible solution to detect unique and unpredictable low- or medium energy sources. Its existing hardware also made it difficult to identify energy flows in the low-voltage area.
Ovarro first devised a solution with Rogowski coils. Rogowski coils are commonly used to accurately monitor medium- and low-voltages in precision welding systems, arc melting furnaces, in short-circuit testing of electric generators and as sensors in protection systems of electrical plants. But, aside from the Rogowski coils, remote telemetry units (RTUs) were needed for the capture, storage and interpretation of vast amounts of data from physical assets in the network.
RTUs are now a critical part of most power generation and distribution operations, and are essential for today and tomorrow’s smart grids. For Juva, Ovarro recommended the Datawatt Smart Grid (DSG) series, designed for operation in the water, energy and industrial markets. The design operates under two main principles — flexibility and maximum security.
Flexible characteristics of the DSG include its ability to implement a variety of protocols in real-time, including IEC104, COAP and Modbus with other protocols available on request. New protocols can be easily created through the Linux operating platform and C# programming language, while programmable logic controller (PLC) programs can also be made with the latest standard from Codesys based on IEC61131-3 — this standard is the industrial protocol for control programs and is used by many national and international organisations and companies.
With the Rogowski coils, installation times on the grid are now reduced to less than 30 minutes to measure eight fields of energy providing sources within the network. Moreover, the purchase price is much cheaper than that of conventional solutions.
Juva has reported that the DSG system greatly benefits the overall security of its network, and that the hardware and software of DSG is a definite improvement. The customer can connect multiple networks in a station — one port is used for communications upwards and another for substation communications. Juva uses a lot of firewall functions to protect these many inputs/outputs (I/Os) and the security options, while not limitless, are many.
Ovarro need to offer a solution that would help Juva manage its grid productivity, energy-efficiently and security with levels of quality of service (QoS). To this end it paired-up with Eneida, which specialises in specially designed smart sensor networks, data analytics and unique collaborative software to better analyse and control data on grids.
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Juva and Ovarro are also working on two pilot projects together. The first examines the Eneida telemetry software connected to the DSG, which can monitor energy values in the area, such as from solar panels. For the second project, Ovarro is building Juva a steel cabinet with electrical components that can be placed outside and withstand temperature and weather changes, so Juva doesn’t have to drive out to a station every time there’s a fault. The customer says the cabinet can be “the brains of any station in the smart grid.”