Renewable energy is the future, but leveraging its full benefits requires a software solution based on 4IR technologies, which delivers true control, accurate forecasts and enables proactive maintenance.
There is no doubt that the shift towards renewable energies is increasing in pace, driven by the need for sustainability, and coupled with the desire to avoid the ongoing load-shedding challenges faced in South Africa.
Multiple industries are beginning to invest significantly in various forms of renewable energy, specifically photovoltaic (PV) power. Absa Bank, for example, is outfitting 128 branches with solar, Shoprite is doing the same at multiple stores, and numerous mines are choosing to implement their own solar solutions under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
This rising consumer and business demand for renewable energy solutions is driven largely by our country’s abundant wind and solar resources. Of course, as new renewable energy sources are tapped, so the need to clearly understand and control load balancing between the power grid and the renewable source has grown as well.
According to Roland Verwey, Control Automation Manager at Saryx Engineering Group (SEG), the company has recently developed software for a solar project at a large client. This customer has built a solar plant to provide energy for the business.
We offer a high-level, comprehensive solution that enables the client to track the performance of equipment on-site, right down to the level of individual solar panels. This provides a bird’s eye view of the system’s performance. With such information at hand, it allows the company to react instantaneously to alarms or other potential challenges that arise.”
“Using a SCADA solution, combined with edge computing and embedded Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, large volumes of data are collected and stored in the Cloud. This data can then be leveraged visually via the SCADA system, to provide clear and accurate information that is used to forecast the company’s power generation and maintenance requirements.”
The idea, continues Verwey, is to move away from reactive mitigation to proactive assessment and maintenance. In fact, he says, it is even possible to combine plants across geographically separate areas within this system, allowing the user to take a broad view or to drill down more deeply.
“Whether you want to broadly view these regions or obtain granular detail around specific items of equipment to understand what maintenance may be required, SEG’s solution enables this. The ability to undertake proactive maintenance is crucial – this is costly equipment, so the more quickly it can be repaired the better.
The beauty of the software is that the more data you obtain, the more easily you can analyse, forecast, and plan. Our solution also gathers data from weather applications, ensuring that if, for example, hail is predicted, the panels can be alerted to fold up to avoid damage.”
The data is also leveraged for other purposes, he adds. Whether it is determining the cost savings made on panels or batteries, outlining the company’s carbon footprint, or considering the various peak and off-peak tariffs, the powerful analytics deliver what is needed.
“In the end, our software enables companies to attain operational excellence while also reducing operational expenditure by around 10-20%. As an example, one client has generated savings of approximately R4 million over a single year.”
“Our software further provides a clear understanding of solar savings, charging costs and the power generated, giving a clear understanding of the effectiveness of the plant, the various operational costs and impacts, and the company’s carbon savings. In fact, as Saryx progresses with this and other similar projects, rest assured that additional details – supported by data demonstrating the effectiveness of the software – will be published over the course of this year,” concludes Verwey.