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Analytics investment delivers dividends for Infigen Energy

Rohan Pearce | July 14, 2016
Renewable energy producer looks at boosting the detail of the data it receives from its windfarms

National renewable energy provider Infigen Energy is looking at boosting the granularity of the data it obtains from its generation facilities as the next step in an analytics revamp that began two years ago.

Infigen has six wind farms as well as a small solar farm. All up its facilities, split between New South Wale, South Australia and Western Australia, have a combined capacity of 557 megawatts. (The company also has a 1200MW development pipeline.)

As a participant in the highly regulated east coast power market, Infigen receives instructions (via a flat file FTP transfer) every five minutes by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). AEMO can direct Infigen to increase, decrease or maintain the power the utility it is feeding into the grid.

"If we don't obey those signals then there could be implications on a business level you can be fined and potentially lose your license," said Victor Sanchez. Sanchez is an application architect at Infigen and oversaw the rollout of the Splunk data visualisation platform at the utility, which he credits with delivering significantly more effective analysis of generation operations.

Sanchez said that although interaction between AEMO, Infigen's systems and the SCADA systems that control and monitor the company's windfarms is fully automated, the power company has a 24/7 Operations Control Centre that monitors both the market signals and the generating facilities.

AEMO sends a token with a market signal that is fed into Infigen's data centre. A bespoke automated SCADA control system retrieves the signal and then issues instructions to the windfarms.

Data from the windfarms is fed back to the SCADA control system as well as to AEMO, with the end-point SCADA systems aggregating and sending data every 10 minutes. In addition, there are one-minute heartbeat signals between the SCADA systems and the control system.

If one of the automated systems fails, then potentially a member of the OCC staff would have step in to ensure Infigen obeys the AEMO signals.

The initial proof-of-concept Splunk implementation delivered more timely analysis of the data generated by the SCADA systems and the control system, Sanchez said. Previously the process would involve an engineer retrieving the semi-structured SCADA data and massaging the data before it could be matched to data on the control system side.

"That could take days or weeks depending on availability of resources on-site, and resources at our offices, and the time actually processing the data," Sanchez said.

"It was taking too much time to figure out what was happening. We operate on a five-minute basis, and within five minutes something can happen," he said.

Working with Katana1, Infigen has built dashboards that can reveal significant incidents, such as a loss of heartbeat, and operational and market events, at a glance. The utility can also review historical data or drill down to get a more detailed view.


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