Apr 8, 2021

Future of satellite-enabled recloser monitoring and control

Steven Tompkins
4 min
 Steven Tompkins, Director of Sector Development at Inmarsat, highlights satellilte's connectivity benefits and reliability of its BGAN M2M service
Steven Tompkins, Director of Sector Development at Inmarsat, highlights satellilte's connectivity benefits and reliability of its BGAN M2M service...

Satellite-enabled connectivity technologies are playing a pivotal role in accelerating digital transformation across the utilities sector, extending the reliability, efficiency and security of tomorrow’s smart grid. 

With today’s electricity providers under pressure to consistently improve service quality and minimise outages, reliable connectivity is absolutely vital. Satellite is an increasingly important tool - particularly for providers in remote areas - where it helps in eliminating cellular coverage dark spots and working as a highly reliable backup communications system when other connectivity networks fail.

Smart grid technologies are numerous, but they predominantly include centralised automated reclosers, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and substation automation. In this article, we consider the connectivity needs of one of the most important, recloser monitoring and control, alongside two instructive case studies of companies benefitting from the latest satellite technologies.

Enabling centralised recloser monitoring and control

Circuit reclosers are considered an essential device to maintain maximum continuity of service, with their ability to sense and interrupt currents in the event of a fault. Decentralised reclosers operate in isolation and are programmed to trip and reset without the need for connectivity networks, while centralised reclosers are connected to a central control room and allow much greater visibility and control over a grid.

While providers often use a variety of both types, the problems with decentralised reclosers are they are not “connected” and cannot be monitored or operated remotely, and once tripped they often transition to a lockout state, which means engineers need to travel to restore functionality, causing lengthy outages and costing the provider money. That’s why, with many providers operating over wide and remote geographies, smart grid management using centralised reclosers and SCADA is an increasingly desirable route. 

The challenge, however, is twofold. Firstly terrestrial connectivity may not be available at all in parts of an electricity distribution network, and secondly if it does exist it might be subject to blackouts or, if it is in a city it may be overloaded. So without satellite, electricity companies have either had to use decentralised reclosers with their various limitations or they have used centralised reclosers that don’t always work. Neither is an ideal scenario.

Case study 1: Ergon Energy, Australia

Ergon Energy maintains and manages the regional electric distribution network across Queensland, Australia. They provide energy for over 720,000 homes and businesses, covering 97% of the state.

Ergon Energy has installed hundreds of reclosers throughout their network, with a significant number operating in the most isolated parts of the state, areas in which traditional terrestrial and cellular connectivity methods are limited or not available. Therefore, they needed a single, ubiquitous, reliable network that was impervious to natural disasters and weather events, while providing a high level of security. 

Inmarsat’s BGAN M2M service met those requirements, providing a seamless, easy to integrate, real-time, IP-based connectivity service to remotely monitor, control and manage Ergon Energy’s recloser network. Click here to read more.

Case study 2: Cemig, Brazil

Cemig is the largest integrated electric power company in Brazil, with 83 power stations and participation in nearly 200 companies and consortia in 22 Brazilian states and the Federal District. One of the main problems that Cemig faces as an electric distribution company is in improving cellular connectivity performance in remote areas of Minas Gerais. 

OnixSat and Inmarsat developed a solution based on satellite connectivity to enable Cemig to increase availability and improve its remote controlling of reclosers. The solution connects the reclosers to Inmarsat’s L-band satellite network, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the commands issued to the reclosers by Cemig’s Center of Operations. 

The collaboration produced impressive results for Cemig. Before deploying the solution, Cemig had an effective availability of remotely controlling the reclosers in the remote recloser project of under 90%. After deployment of the solution this indicator now shows an average of 98%. Click here to read more.

Reliable and cost-effective satellite solutions

IP over satellite is demonstrably the most reliable and cost-effective option to remotely monitor and control centralised reclosers in areas where terrestrial connectivity is unreliable. Inmarsat’s BGAN M2M service is used on over 10,000 reclosers around the world and has been trusted as the industry standard by electricity providers for over a decade.

The BGAN M2M service operating on Inmarsat’s L-band network is the ideal satellite solution for recloser monitoring and control, as it provides up to 99.9% uptime in any continental location, aside from the far poles, even in adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain, where other satellite services struggle.

The service features robust and compact terminals which are easy to install and can withstand hostile environmental conditions with a lifespan up to or exceeding ten years. With a low monthly data usage and long hardware lifespan the total cost of ownership for the service is minimal compared to the cost of dispatching technicians to resolve issues, with the benefit of achieving a higher continuity of service. 

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Aug 2, 2021

Financing rises in digital platforms and renewables projects

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Recent financing deals involving Cold Bore Technology and Soltage underline the importance of digital platforms and renewables

Cold Bore Technology has closed $14M in growth financing in a round that was led by bp ventures with participation from the Canadian Business Growth Fund (CBGF).  

Cold Bore is leading a shift in the completions (fracking) industry towards safer, more autonomous operations by providing oil & gas companies with SmartPAD, a centralised fully integrated software and hardware platform designed to collect, analyse, and report data. Better utilisation of this data unlocks operators’ ability to make improvements across all KPIs.

Results from a recent SmartPAD implementation with Hibernia Resources, saw the Permian-based producer able to reduce the duration of their completions program by 15 days (27%), with commensurate reductions in cost and emissions.

Along with this investment from bp ventures, bp will be deploying Cold Bore’s SmartPAD in bpx energy’s US onshore operations. The technology will support bpx’s efforts to continuously improve its operations.

“The oil & gas industry has realised that technological innovation is key to meeting growing calls for reduced emissions and improved returns. Cold Bore is proud to be playing a leadership role in the future of oil & gas operations.” said Brett Chell, Co-founder & President at Cold Bore Technology.

“As we scale to meet incredible demand, we’re excited to have a strong strategic partner in bp, a forward-thinking international energy company, and to play a part in helping bp reach its carbon and operational targets. The future of the oil & gas industry is autonomous operations."

Existing investors include the Rice Investment Group (RIG), a $200M multi-strategy, energy sector investment fund.

Another company in the spotlight last week was Soltage, a leading independent renewable power producer, which has raised a $130M debt facility led by Silicon Valley Bank. The investment will finance a 110MW national portfolio of projects across North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, Illinois, Virginia and Maryland.

The construction of this portfolio will be staged over the next three quarters, with construction currently underway on ten projects across four states. Customers purchasing electricity from the projects financed through this debt vehicle include Investor Owned Utilities buying power under Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts, community solar subscribers and corporations purchasing power from the portfolio to meet clean energy goals and lower energy costs.

Silicon Valley Bank is the Sole Coordinating Lead Arranger of the debt facility with three other banks included as lenders. This facility includes an optional $100M expansion feature to finance additional projects beyond the current set of identified projects. This announcement marks the latest development for the Soltage Iris capital vehicle, following Soltage and Harrison Street's $250M commitment in March to deliver 450MW of new solar, solar+storage and standalone storage development across the US.

"Soltage continues to provide stable investment opportunities for capital providers who are looking for bankable approaches to sustainable infrastructure investment," said Sripradha Ilango, Soltage CFO. "We are pleased to continue to bring to market high quality project portfolios that open avenues for corporations, utilities and families to adopt solar power and achieve decarbonisation priorities."

"We are at a critical point where funding domestic infrastructure to bring more clean energy online in the United States is of the utmost importance," said Bret Turner, Market Manager at Silicon Valley Bank. "Our team is proud to work with Soltage to support building these essential zero carbon energy projects in key locations across the country."

This announcement is part of a continued movement of mainstream investors looking to solar and other renewable infrastructure assets for long-term investment opportunities. Soltage has deployed over $1B into clean energy assets across the US since its founding in 2005.

SVOLT Energy Technology Co., a leading EV battery manufacturer, held a B Round Financing Transaction Ceremony in Changzhou, Jiangsu on July 28. Following the completion of A Round Financing of RMB 3.5 billion ($538 million) at the end of February, the company rapidly closed this third round of market-based equity funding, raising a total amount of RMB 10.28 billion ($1.58 billion).

Last month also saw Longroad Energy, a US-based renewable energy developer, owner and operator, complete term financing for Sun Streams 2, its 200 MWdc solar project in Maricopa County, Arizona. Longroad owns 100 percent of the project after acquiring it in early 2021 from First Solar, the original developer.

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