Six things to consider when choosing the SCADA of your renewable energy project

The energetic transition is accelerating the next industrial revolution. Renewable energies have the leading role and, in this context, new needs are arising in managing these installations. Their people in charge must maximize the production and, at the same time, minimize the risks. In fact, SCADA is among the elements that determine the plant efficiency. However, this system seems to be secondary in some projects.

In the last few years, the plant SCADA has changed from being a monitoring and control tool for field operators to be a financial and operating management platform for owners, managers, and operators. Expectations are higher than before, and, therefore, making a good decision may determine the investment performance.

Then, what do you have to consider when choosing a SCADA for a renewable energy project? Some agents –this may be your case– are involved in long and complex choice processes when it comes to choosing the appropriate control tool, with a multitude of variables to take into consideration. Some of the most frequent questions are:

  • Do technical or functional aspects matter more?
  • Which departments or teams should participate in the decision?
  • Is it possible to integrate elements of third parties, such as PPC, CMMS, or BESS?
  • Can support mechanisms be included in decision making?
  • What happens if a revamping of the plant is carried out? Would the SCADA be prepared for the new installations or technologies?

We propose you the following:

1. Make sure you have specifications for local SCADA and another for control center one (reviewed by the vendor and end customer)

In many cases, the contractor and the vendor of the system work together in the specifications without involving the end user participation, who has to actually maximize the renewable resource. It is advisable to deal with the vendor from basic engineering because they are the one who knows the needs of each party, including those of the user.

Other times, specifications for SCADA are also used in asset control center projects if its requirements differ from those of a local plant SCADA. We recommend that you prepare separate specifications, detailing which functional features may solve ongoing end user problems.

2. Pay attention to cyber security: create its relevant section in the specifications

Due to the increasing remote management of renewable assets, the risk of malicious intent to access the system is higher. Indeed, more connectivity means more exposure. For this reason, cyber security must be one of the core elements of supervisory control system installation projects. In this sense, you should act from the local SCADA.

3. Confirm hardware guarantees and/or dispose a support plan that covers the entire life cycle of the plant

The main equipment of a renewable asset has a half-life from fifteen to twenty years. Then, it is advisable that you estimate the maintenance costs, and for maintenance to be managed directly with each vendor. In addition, you have to consider that the SCADA may be more robust and fulfill its function properly over the years if the systems or technologies of the plant are upgraded during its lifetime.

4. Make sure that the SCADA includes tools capable of reducing detection times and analyze the root causes

In order to maximize production and minimize operating costs of renewable assets, you do not only need remote tools, but also automation tools capable of generating decisions with available data. Any tool offering an evaluation of encountered problems in the plant will help to maximize the time available to operators.

5. Check if the hardware and software can be scalable

You must consider the fact that the main advantage of renewable installations is that they can be hybridized with other technologies, and the scope of the project can be changed in half of its lifetime. As such, you must ensure that the hardware and software allow for additional devices, protocols, or signals to be managed if the project requires it.

6. Evaluate integration capacity with third parties (PPC, BESS, Big Data)

The hybridization possibilities, revamping or repowering can result in new connection needs between plant SCADA and third elements. It is not indispensable that the SCADA covers all types of technologies, but it needs to be able to communicate with other devices by means of standard protocols or tested architectures nimbly. That is why a SCADA having BESS or PPC systems integrated in its database will facilitate the extension of the asset lifetime.

On balance, elaborating SCADA specifications and involving all teams do not necessarily be an added cost. However, it is true that if the necessary attention is not given at the beginning of the project, it could delay its delivery and lead to rework and cost overruns at the end.

You can learn more in this webinar video “Cómo seleccionar el mejor SCADA para tu proyecto renovable” (How to choose the best SCADA for your renewable project), which took place the last 25th February.

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