DEPCOM Power is a leading engineering, procurement and construction and operations and maintenance services provider for the utility-scale solar industry.
This project required that we navigate disparate systems from a variety of vendors, deploy a smart solution over a large geographic area, and find a manageable way to sift through huge volume of data.
Solar energy is a growing industry, but utility-scale solar power plants can present many challenges for a traditional SCADA system. A typical solar power plant contains thousands of connected devices from a variety of vendors dispersed across a large geographical area. A robust, scalable SCADA architecture which can be quickly rolled out as new power plants are built requires a lot of forethought. From an operations and maintenance perspective, the amount of data can quickly become overwhelming, clouding the ability to quickly identify and correct any issues. In addition to answering these challenges, Vertech also strives to build a solution which is highly polished, both technically and graphically.
For its solar power plant SCADA solution, Vertech used the Standard Ignition Architecture including one local historian and one connection to a database in the cloud. On a typical site, the Ignition gateway will be directly connected to nearly 100 devices. However, some of those devices act as gateways themselves, so in total the system is used to monitor and control around 3,000 devices. This amounts to over 15,000 I/O tags per site. This SCADA package is being used at five solar plants, with total generation capability of more than 200MW. Vertech went to extreme lengths in perfecting the user experience, creating a system which intelligently aggregates data and allows the user to quickly see big-picture information. This applies not only to the graphics in the Vision module, but also to reporting and even Vertech’s own development experience.
For the graphic design, Vertech wanted a framework it could lean on to ensure consistency in color, style, and layout across every component of the application. This morphed into a full implementation of Google’s material design specification in Ignition, resulting in an application which is not only visually appealing but is also intuitive to use. A full graphical theme engine was built on top of the Ignition Vision module to allow each user to select a visual theme of their choosing.
Intelligent reporting, which does more than simply serve up the top 1,000 rows of a database table in a tabular format, is a must on a large solar field. Leveraging the advanced scripting functionality available within the Ignition Reporting module, Vertech designed a report which analyzes the data from the hundreds or thousands of strings of solar panels to highlight the lowest performing equipment and prioritize the activities of the operations and maintenance team.
From a development perspective, Vertech needed to create the tools to efficiently develop and commission this system as future solar sites are brought online. Vertech made full use of graphical templates, and extended the Ignition UDT feature set to build powerful UDTs while maintaining the flexibility required in this application. Configuration screens and scripts were developed to simplify the instantiation and configuration of complex objects.
Ignition enabled Vertech to provide a SCADA system for its customer, DEPCOM Power, which vastly improves upon the status quo in the industry. The customer now has more data available and the user interface is easier to use, allowing operations and maintenance teams to be more effective when identifying and troubleshooting issues. The analysis of site performance data, which used to be a manual task, is now automated so any site performance issues are quickly brought to the attention of the appropriate people.
The system can also be developed and commissioned in record time, allowing Vertech to meet schedules which would otherwise be impossible. With Ignition, Vertech can build a no-compromise solution, providing a better product with less development time.