A purpose-built facility to test new energy sources
Ergon Energy Network is part of the state-owned group of companies that make up Energy Queensland – the largest electricity distribution business in Australia.
With 2.3 million connected customers from the Torres Strait Islands to the Gold Coast, in a state with world-leading rates of rooftop solar, Energy Queensland has played a key role in the transition to renewable energy.
In communities too remote to connect to the national grid, where diesel power stations have traditionally been the primary means of generating electricity, the move to low-carbon, lower-cost energy solutions is underway.
To support this transition, Ergon built the $6 million Microgrid and Isolated Systems Test (MIST) facility to research how new energy sources and technologies might interact with existing and isolated electricity networks.
That’s where ICON Technologies came in. Ergon approached us to provide a solution to efficiently measure, synchronise and analyse data from different energy sources and sinks.
Collecting and synchronising disparate date with ease and accuracy
The MIST facility lets Ergon study the behaviour of heterogeneous energy resources on-grid and off-grid. Real energy sources and sinks (like megawatt diesel generators, a 60 kW solar array, community batteries, and load banks) can be connected to their real-time digital simulator on demand. This allows Ergon to simulate the behaviour of a specific resource mix, model its response to different scenarios, and test the model predictions against the actual behaviour of the system. This ensures that they can systematically update and optimise the energy mix of a site with minimum risk.
To this end, ICON provided Ergon with a facility-wide, fully integrated data acquisition and data management system. The distributed data acquisition network comprised 14 combined power quality analysers (PQAs) and digital fault recorders (DFRs), plus 3 general-purpose mixed-signal data loggers for monitoring specific resource functions such as the startup and shutdown behaviours of gensets, all based on National Instruments’ CompactRIO (cRIO) high-performance programmable automation controllers (PACs). ICON used the National Instruments’ SystemLink framework to integrate all controllers into a unified data management, analysis and reporting network, with a consistent user “look and feel” across all MIST Lab functions..
Ergon can now record tightly synchronised long-term power quality and performance trends together with sub-millisecond transient events, from any combination of resources in the MIST facility. The trends and the raw kilohertz AC waveforms are available on-demand for analysis, diagnosis and problem-solving. The data server supports custom analysis scripts written by Ergon for interactive data exploration and automated report generation.
Accessible data and data-driven optimisations
In the past, working with such a variety of data sources involved using multiple unrelated tools with differing data formats; the effort to integrate and compare disparate information was high.
In contrast, ICON’s data management system collates all measurements into a unified format, available through a central coherent user interface. This streamlines the analysis process and minimises the array of skill sets required.
ICON’s data toolset helps Ergon to study and fine-tune the behaviour of technologies under simulated conditions before being deployed to remote sites, which saves time and money. It also helps Ergon to verify the accuracy of the simulation models and refine them as appropriate, leading to higher confidence in their results.
Shaping the future of energy together
ICON implemented the integrated monitoring and data management system in 18 months from scoping to design and commissioning. We provided training sessions, remote desktop support and ongoing live support to the Ergon team, which eased their transition accordingly.
This was an exciting partnership for Ergon and ICON – we were thrilled to have a role in developing the future of energy in Queensland communities!
Today, ICON continues to offer ongoing operations and maintenance support to the MIST facility and looks forward to learning about Ergon’s findings in the not-too-distant future.