ICON Technologies wins 2013 PACE Zenith Award for Power & Energy Management

PACE Zenith Awards 2013: Best Power & Energy Management category sponsored by Schneider Electric Australia

WINNER: ICON Technologies
Project: Curtin University GEEP Laboratory Data Management System

ICON Technologies developed the GEEP Laboratory Data Management System for the Curtin University GEEP (Green Electric Energy Park) Facility, as its core data acquisition and distribution system.

The GEEP Facility was recognised as “…a new initiative in power engineering education…” by the IEEE Power and Energy Society at its annual general meeting in 2011. It was officially opened on 26 November 2012.

The energy sector is characterised by a growing number of different energy sources, each with different characteristics, linked together through common infrastructure elements such as inverters, energy storage systems, and grid management. 

The GEEP Laboratory provides a practical, real-world teaching and research environment that integrates multiple different renewable energy sources with a commercial scale power management and micro-grid infrastructure.

The facility is intended to provide meaningful graduate and postgraduate training covering renewable energy sources and infrastructure, such as to enable a new workforce capable of dealing with the continual evolution of the energy market. The GEEP Laboratory Data Management System is the critical system that integrates the diverse operational and technical functions of the Laboratory.

The system needed to provide unrestricted 24/7 access to all real-time and historical data for researchers, and limited but flexible access to real-time and historical data for students. Any researcher or student, sitting at any workstation, needed to be able to access real-time and historical data from any combination of renewable energy sources.

In addition the system needed to provide multiple levels of remote access so that researchers or teaching staff could have full operational access to the system from a remote office or teaching space, while various subsets of data could be made available over the internet to various industry or public interest groups.

ICON Technologies was also faced with also significant technical challenges. The data acquisition system needed to integrate mixed signals from a variety of sources. Selected points within the system provided low-speed and high-speed current/voltage data, while commercial smart devices within the power management infrastructure fed OPC and web-based data into the system.

A commercial site weather station provided serial data, while each energy source present at the laboratory had its own ancillary devices, which output various data. The data distribution system needed to distribute any user-definable mix of real-time data to any or all access points in the Laboratory or on the network as required, and to maintain a 24/7 archive of a user definable subset of data.

Stephen Coop (L), Managing Director Pacific at Schneider Electric congratulates winner Mark Trotman of ICON Technologies.

Stephen Coop (L), Managing Director Pacific at Schneider Electric congratulates winner Mark Trotman of ICON Technologies.

ICON Technologies worked closely with the Curtin University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which was responsible for the power engineering design and physical layout of the Laboratory and the selection of system components.

Together, they standardised on the “look and feel” of the application software interface. The initial implementation of the Laboratory includes seven different energy sources, with three variants of a solar photovoltaic array (single crystal, polycrystalline, and amorphous), two wind turbines (horizontal and vertical), one micro-hydro system, and one fuel cell.

All these energy sources are integrated with various battery storage banks, load banks, inverters, a micro-grid, and a site weather station. ICON Technologies and Curtin University deployed full commercial scale devices wherever feasible to closely replicate real-world conditions.

For example, the solar PV arrays, wind turbines and inverters were all standard commercial scale devices. Each energy source is physically connected to a Laboratory teaching station with associated switching to access different elements of the power management infrastructure.

ICON Technologies’ data acquisition and distribution system utilised one Win7 server PC, enough client PCs to provide a minimum of one per teaching station, three National Instruments CompactRIO PAC Controllers to acquire point and waveform current/voltage data at selected system points, and to handle ancillary IO as required and a MOXA serial interface to integrate the site weather station.

The custom system application software was developed in National Instruments LabVIEW 2011, including LabVIEW for Windows Professional Development System, for PC Server and Client development; LabVIEW RT Module, for CompactRIO embedded software development; LabVIEW FPGA Module, for CompactRIO embedded software development; and LabVIEW DSC Module, for data management.

The Curtin University GEEP Laboratory was officially opened by Dr Mike Nahan, WA Parliamentary Secretary for Energy, on 26 November 2012. It has to date been rigorously tested by a group of postgraduate students and researchers. The first undergraduate students undertaking a teaching laboratory program began in Semester 1, 2013.

The GEEP Laboratory Data Management System handles mixed static and waveform signals at acquisition rates from 1 sample/s to 5,000 samples/s, together with serial and network data, in a single seamless system.

It also allows all data, regardless of source, to be combined in user-definable groups, and made available to single or multiple client workstations as required. Independent users can simultaneously acquire, view and custom process the same logical data group.

Client workstations automatically load the correct data group for the selected workstation interface, and auto-configure the display screens for the data group tags. ICON Technologies also designed the system to be scalable: it can accommodate new energy sources and new logical data groupings as required.

According to the judges, the project won because the data management system not only addressed the challenging requirements, but in doing so went well beyond the scope of a conventional data acquisition system.

Schneider Electric sponsors the 2013 PACE Zenith AwardsThe 2013 PACE Zenith Power and Energy Mangement Awards are sponsored by Schneider Electric Australia.
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