The Magazine of American Municipal Power, Inc. and its Member Communities

AMP Profiles

SCADA and Real-Time Systems

4 min read

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October 2022

By Zachary Hoffman, Manager of Communications and Publications

There was a time when running a utility or generating electricity required far more manual labor than it does today. Whether you were starting a generator or monitoring electrical output, a person often had to physically visit a location to perform those tasks.

As generation facilities and manufacturing plants continued to grow in response to expanding consumer demand in the 1950s and ’60s, having a plant operator tend to all of the facilities in person became impractical. The need for automated or remote controls became increasingly apparent. It was from this problem that the concept of supervisory, control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems was born.

SCADA systems are computerized controls that enable the automation of or remote access to industrial processes, while also storing and transmitting data to system operators. In the case of electric generators, a SCADA system allows operators to run and monitor multiple utility-scale systems from one central location.

 

An early adopter of SCADA technology, AMP developed and installed its first SCADA system in the mid-1980s.

Today, SCADA systems have become a vital, behind-the-scenes component of the nation’s electric grid. They quietly provide the infrastructure necessary for nearly every utility and generator across the country to efficiently run their operations. AMP and its member utilities are no exception to that fact.

AMP’s SCADA systems have grown with time, linking together AMP and member facilities across the member footprint. It is through the effective operation of these systems that AMP’s power dispatch team can work with member utilities to effectively meet the needs of their approximately 650,000 customers.

These systems are essential to the operation of AMP and our generation facilities, and they would not be possible without the diligent work of an expert team:

From left: Elmer Baker, SCADA technician; Joe Morris, manager of SCADA and real time systems; and Caleb Haley, senior systems engineer.

From left: Elmer Baker, SCADA technician; Joe Morris, manager of SCADA and real-time systems; and Caleb Haley, senior systems engineer.

  • Joe Morris, manager of SCADA and real-time systems — responsible for the management and oversight of AMP’s SCADA and real-time system projects and deployments.
  • Caleb Haley, senior systems engineer, SCADA — responsible for the administration of AMP’s SCADA system, configuring new devices, creating new data screens and functions at the request of dispatch, and programming remote terminal units.
  • Elmer Baker, SCADA technician — responsible for installing SCADA equipment and troubleshooting issues in the field.
  • Tony Phan, senior system administrator — responsible for the administration of AMP’s PI system, providing members and internal employees with the ability to access real-time and historical SCADA data.

Over time, AMP’s SCADA systems have evolved to incorporate new efficiencies and technologies. With the introduction of PI (pronounced “pie”) — a suite of software that allows for the storage, access and visualization of data — AMP and its members can make greater use of historical interconnection and generation data through automated reports and the member real-time metering dashboard. Rather than combing through pages of data, the information that the system gathers is available to subscribers, via login credentials, on any computer at the push of a button, allowing for convenient, yet deep analysis from any location.

“Much of what we do isn’t directly visible to AMP members and directly supports other teams at AMP, such as dispatch, but it is vital to the organization and to our members,” Morris said. “We are involved any time there is a need to retrieve field data, such as when a new substation or generator is set up, or whenever the ability to remotely control generation is required.”

One such example is the team’s recent work on the behind-the-meter diesel generator project undertaken in partnership with PowerSecure.

The PowerSecure diesel generators are spread out across the AMP-member footprint, and it is vital that AMP’s dispatch team have the ability to start, stop and monitor the output of these assets in real time. By incorporating the generators into AMP’s SCADA and real-time systems, the dispatch team is able to control each generator from their central hub at AMP headquarters in Columbus.

The efforts of the SCADA and Realtime Systems Team have become a vital component for efficient operations of AMP and member systems and facilities. In recognition of his recent efforts and ingenuity, Tony Phan, senior system administrator, was named the 2022 AMP Employee Innovator Award Winner.

The efforts of the SCADA and Real-Time Systems Team have become a vital component for efficient operations of AMP and member systems and facilities. In recognition of his recent efforts and ingenuity, Tony Phan, senior system administrator, was named the 2022 AMP Employee Innovator Award Winner.

“We are always adding new meters to AMP’s SCADA and PI systems, such as new member generation, battery and interconnection points, but we also work to keep AMP’s existing systems up to date,” Phan said. “For instance, right now we are planning to perform an upgrade of the PI systems at the Willow Island Hydroelectric Plant and AMP Fremont Energy Center. The upgrade will enhance AMP’s data collection and allow for more robust data analysis by the generation operations team.”

Recently the SCADA team updated the Member Real-Time Metering Dashboard, which provides members access to monitor their power usage and generation figures. The updated dashboard enables users to collectively view multiple connected sites through a user-friendly and password-protected website. Users can view data in the form of a table or line graph, which can help with the analysis of specific data points over extended periods of time.

“The dashboard is a great tool available to members, allowing them to see data for any meter within their footprint that we read,” Morris said. “The data on the dashboard updates every 15 seconds, providing members a nearly-real-time view on their current load.”

While the dashboard has been available to members for some time, recent updates to the interface have given the site increased functionality.

Tom Gray, village administrator for the Village of Monroeville and a longtime user of the dashboard, commented that the updates have been a “breath of fresh air” and have resulted in a more robust tool for monitoring load and generation figures. Gray suggests that it could be a useful tool to other AMP members.

Members who are interested in learning more about the AMP SCADA and real-time systems team, or who would like a demonstration of the Member Real-Time Metering Dashboard, are encouraged to contact the AMP SCADA team at [email protected].