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Case Study: Remote Site Monitoring

Sep 28, 2017

Since 2008, the East West Power Renewable Corporation (EWP) has used Canary software to assist them in the remote monitoring of power generation facilities across the United States. Using more than twenty remote loggers, EWP can centralize all site data to a corporate historian, while still making data available to plant operators, supervisors, and engineers.
EWP leverages the Canary solution to study key performance indicators at the plant level, concentrating specifically on electrical output and plant efficiency. Because the data is shared across the organization, many individuals can be included, not just the talent pool inside the plant walls.
For instance, Pisarski is based out of New Jersey, but can complete daily revenue reporting for all plants, nationwide. Using Canary’s reporting capabilities, he gathers time average data in five minute intervals and ensures that the pricing structure from the utility matches.

Efficiency is key

EWP Project Manager, Scott Pisarski has been a long-time user of the Canary system. He recognizes that one of the most valuable applications of the software is in maintaining high levels of efficiency, plant wide. Scott found a useful application for Canary when trying to understand the effect of parasitic loads, or the amount of energy the plant uses to generate its output, including station service loads like fans, motors, pumps, etc.
As Pisarski explains, “Using Canary, we are able to look at service loads and understand how detrimental they are to maintaining higher profit efficiencies. By studying the parameters, we can identify unnecessary draws when a particular motor starts, realizing that six times the typical current level is being used. This high draw results in unacceptable maximum demand outputs that we must pay the utility whenever this motor must restart. Because of this discovery, we made decisions to install variable frequency drives (VFD) on select equipment in the plants. The VFD varies the frequency to the motor so it starts at a slower speed, avoiding large power spikes when you initially start the motor. By avoiding these demand charges using Canary software, we save a substantial amount of money. All because we could visualize and understand where the parasitic load can be benefited by a cost saving solution.

Monitoring and maintaining assets

Each plant is comprised of many assets, including key pieces of equipment like generators and engines. To best prolong the life and ensure consistent uptime on these crucial assets, as much data as possible is collected. “There is a lot of data that can be studied with each one of these engines. For instance, a single engine has sixteen measurable combustion temperatures readings. Add the other data tags and you have nearly thirty-five unique, data sensors per asset”, explains Pisarski. He continues, “If we experience engine trouble perhaps the engine is tripping off line, we use Canary to recall current and historic temperature readings. Then, we study them and determine specifically what we believe is causing the engine trouble.”
“To further isolate issues and potential problems, we routinely run performance comparisons. To do so, we compare multiple engines to one another and study the key indicators. We also compare the same engines historically, specifically looking for changes in the data, due to extended run time. This process provides us with a reliable barometer
of what maintenance can be performed to further the lifetime of these assets. Let’s face it, when an engine fails, it becomes quite costly. It is much more efficient to properly maintain our assets than to be forced to replace parts or even the entire engine itself and suffer unscheduled downtime.”

History repeated

It has been said that “those who do not learn from history will be doomed to repeat it”. To avoid suffering this fate, Pisarski and fellow EWP staff place great value in the historical data that is made available to them in the Canary database. As he explains, “Typically the plant managers look at the historical data to perform forensic analysis of unusual events. For instance, if a plant trips offline, they can use Canary to pull up some of the parameters and learn exactly what happened. Questions are asked like, ‘how much were we steaming, what were the temperatures, what were our emissions?’ They will look at all of those items and make a determination of what caused the failure. Then, this new knowledge can be applied and tested. If proven true, corrective steps can be taken to avoid similar issues in the future.”

Ease of use

According to Pisarski, “The Canary software is intuitive and requires very little training. Our employees and managers could use the software with very little help. A lot of the managers will use the software to monitor their various engines and generators, looking at screens that I designed for them. These screens are very easy for the operator to look at and see how all the engines are operating at any given time. Because of this, we are easily able to match the requested dispatch signals with output and monitor our efficiency. Canary gives us the flexibility to adapt to ever changing conditions, including new technology. We use the system to connect to new devices all the time. There is so much you can actually do. If the Canary system wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have access to a lot of crucial information.”