The mounting concerns for climate changes have had many governments seek out feasible energy solutions that are more environmental friendly and less exhaustible; one of the more popular and better developed renewable energy solutions is the solar energy and the reason being solar power systems convert readily available and inexhaustible sunlight directly into electricity with solar cells, leaving almost no carbon footprint.
However, the cost of solar power generation components, including cells, panels and arrays, remains high; power generation and usage by way of solar power systems, therefore, must be carefully monitored in order to evaluate and improve such systems’ performance, efficiency and ROI.
One of China’s electric companies sent out a request for hardware solutions capable of monitoring solar power substations located at unmanned, remote areas with harsh climates and weather conditions.
The requested system was to be developed into an integrated communications platform responsible, first of all, for gathering, storing and analyzing data relating to sunlight strength, direct current power, power conversion efficiency, array disconnect statistics and second of all, for overseeing meters such as wind speed and temperature.
The collected data would be uploaded, in real-time, to an operation center via the serial-to-Ethernet communication.
In order to accurately collect information on sunlight and power generation for performance evaluation, the industrial PC had to meet the following hardware criteria:
- ESD/Surge Protection on I/O Ports:
This system was to be connected to high voltage devices such as inverters for monitoring DC to AC conversion process, the built-in ESD protection on serial ports and magnetic isolation on LAN ports would therefore ensure reliability, availability and safety
- Rugged Design:
Features such as fanless design and support for a broad range of operating temperatures made sure such monitoring systems’ availability in almost all harsh environments and extreme weathers
- DIN Rail with Front Access Ports:
Given the limited space in which this monitoring system and other devices were to be deployed, hardware’s compact, DIN rail form factor and front access ports would greatly simplify installation and maintenance.
- Multiple Serial/LAN Ports Support:
Having to be connected to devices of different functions and vendors such as pyranometers, wind direction sensors and temperature meters, the hardware must support multiple serial COM ports for protocol conversation.
The LEC-3012, a robust and compact IPC was eventually selected as the data concentrator for the aforementioned solar power monitoring system capable of gathering and analyzing data from sensors and meters deployed at the remote site.
The LEC-3012 features Intel Atom N455 CPU, 4 Serial COM ports with 15KV ESD/surge protections and 2 GbE LAN ports with magnetic isolation protections; such configuration makes possible an integrated setup on which reliable communications with inverters for overseeing the DC to AC conversion efficiency can be developed.
The LEC-3012 also features 2 x 10 terminal block function for the Serial COM ports, providing a multitude of wiring options adaptable for various types of sensors and meters.
Industrial grade components and ease of maintenance are two critical factors for a remote site industrial communication device. The LEC-3012’s solid chassis and fanless interior design, for instance, not only make it completely dustproof and but also insure its reliability and longevity. Furthermore, the DIN rail mount and front access ports simplify hardware maintenance because hardware maintenance and service can be carried out whilst the appliance was still mounted on the DIN-rail.
The LEC-3012 has proven to be a flexible solution for monitoring solar power and other renewable energy sources, one that combines performance, high-availability and cost-efficiency. This particular appliance has since been adopted by thousands of solar power substations in China, significantly reducing the cost and man-power associated with remote power substation monitoring.
Lanner has since then struck up partnerships with several solar power and renewable energy systems providers in Germany, Italy, Spain and India, for the development of suitable solutions intended for solar power substation monitoring.