Thunder Bay Airport Solar Farm
A growing industry with growing challenges
It is no secret that the Solar Energy industry has exploded in recent years, particularly in areas where the government has incentivized production through grants and rebates. In Ontario, for example, with the advent of the FIT program (http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/fit-and-microfit-program/) this field had seen an influx of development in both residential and commercial solar projects.
In the case of commercial farms, these large projects require not only vast infrastructure but exceedingly specific technology assets implemented by individuals or organizations with specialized qualifications; In the burgeoning solar energy industry, most projects truly employ a team atmosphere with upwards of dozens of companies involved from the project’s beginnings to its completion and operating stage. In the case of Thunder Bay’s largest solar farm, “Digital Engineering served as a common thread that tied a number of organizations together,” says company president, Les Perrault. Because of the vast scope of system integration that this large solar field demands, Digital Engineering has become a vital contributor in a number of ways, ranging from data collection, communication integration, and re-coding systems to better integrate with the system at large.
The issue with getting this Solar Farm to full working operation laid in the challenge of integrating data communications between all parties involved.
A project of major scope and size
The initial stage of this project saw the owner (Sky Power) and builder (Siemens) enter into an agreement to commence the ambitious project of constructing Thunder Bay’s largest solar farm project just south of the Thunder Bay International Airport.
The issue with getting this Solar Farm to full working operation laid in the challenge of integrating data communications between all parties involved. Without proper communication, the farm would not be allowed to connect to the grid. The collection of data from the site would need to be converted into Remote Telemetry Units (RTU) where data is consolidated. It is then transmitted over the various communication paths.
The solar farm operator, Sky Power, along with Siemens would bring in Digital Engineering to meet this challenge. Consider the variety of communication equipment used within this farm, ranging from cellular communications, Thunder Bay Hydro monitoring equipment, Operator monitoring equipment, as well as radio communications. With such a huge array of equipment, contributing parties and communication systems and the operator found in Digital Engineering a team of individual experts that could understand the big picture of the data system. Digital Engineering possessed knowledge that applies to the various sectors and partners involved, and understood what was needed in order to get the larger communication infrastructure in place.
Through a stringent analysis, the Digital Engineering team developed ways to integrate all data and communications into one cohesive process. By understanding where and how the vast amount of data needed to go, and how it would need to be transmitted, Digital Engineering proposed a way to reliably transmit data pertaining to energy output, weather information right down to panel efficiency to each of the partners and regulatory bodies involved.
Our involvement in this project effectively demonstrates the standard approach to Digital Engineering’s work with multi-level data systems, which typically is as follows:
- Ongoing service
Ultimately, Digital Engineering was contacted by the main partners within this project because of their reputation for being able to approach a problem, analyze it, and come up with a solution.
“Our skill set is to understand the big picture of the data system and put it all together for all parties involved. I’m happy to say that we were able to bring everything together for this project for effective data communication.”
– Les Perrault