Remote monitoring and control for microgrids on islands in the Philippines
We partnered with Philippines-based company One Renewable to enable remote monitoring and control to support local operators stationed on dispersed islands.
Context: Remote Islands With Unreliable Electricity
The Philippines is a vast archipelago consisting of 7,640 islands. With rich marine sanctuaries and pristine beaches, these islands have huge potential in the tourism and fishing industries.
However, limited power supply is hampering economic development. Many of these locations are inhabited by small communities with no grid infrastructure at all. For communities with access to grid electricity, power is typically available for just a few hours a day.
Decentralized renewable energy (DRE) is the most viable solution to bring power to approximately 2,000 communities located hours away from urban centers on remote islands.
The servicing and maintenance of power plants in these remote communities, however, represents a huge challenge in realizing the potential of DRE.
The Challenge: Servicing and Maintaining Remote Island Systems
One Renewable designs, integrates, installs, markets, and retails various solar PV products on remote islands in the Philippines.
The company recently worked with three island communities to install and maintain three solar hybrid micro-grid power plants. Each island is approximately 35 kilometers (21.75 miles) from the nearest mainland port – almost four hours of travel time.
For each power plant, four components require 24×7 monitoring to ensure the plant is providing high-quality, reliable services: the battery inverter, solar inverter, diesel generator energy meter, and plant output energy meter.
Prior to collaborating with Odyssey, on-site staff would physically log key parameters from the different components in the mini-grid, such as energy consumption.
This kind of manual reporting is often prone to error.
The Solution: FernFlex Remote Monitoring and Control
Satellite communication system
Monitoring cabinet with FernFlex controller
System Monitoring Hardware
Odyssey offers a range of hardware solutions for different types of systems. For One Renewable, Odyssey selected our highly customizable and flexible FernFlex controller, which can be integrated into custom monitoring cabinets.
For customers who do not have in-house experience with building monitoring cabinets, Odyssey can also provide turnkey monitoring kits as a plug-and-play solution.
Example of One Renewable’s dashboard, depicting a customized system layout diagram for the installed system
As connectivity and bandwidth at the sites is limited, Odyssey utilizes data compression algorithms to compress the data transferred by up to 95%.
To put that into perspective, an SMA data manager consumes roughly 10X as much data as the FernFlex controller for monitoring the same system.
This difference in data consumption significantly reduces bandwidth requirements and associated operating costs. These three systems also highlight a shift in how remote systems can be remotely monitored.
Historically, GSM was the only viable solution for providing power systems with access to data. However, falling satellite communications cost are now making it possible for operators of remote power system to affordably monitor these systems.
Satellite communications enabled One Renewable to reliably monitor these three remote island systems.
Flexible, Customized Software
The FernView platform offers an intuitive interface for real-time insight into the performance of all connected system components.
A customized system layout diagram depicts the composition of equipment at the plant, providing instantaneous values for each component.
As shown in the image above, One Renewable is accessing live data for its SMA Sunny Island Battery Inverters, SMA Core 1 MPPT, a diesel generator, and its One Grid energy meter.
Customized system key performance indicators (KPIs), provide an at-a-glance view of the health of each component.
One Renewable was able to set customized thresholds for these KPIs, ensuring they issued warnings when thresholds were reached.
These warnings have proven to be very helpful in troubleshooting and quickly locating problematic areas.
Live charts provide further information about the operations of the plant.
One Renewable is using the three charts above to track key system health data, including:
- Battery State of Charge and Voltage: With this chart, the user is able to asses battery performance. Looking at the history of this chart (e.g. 6 months) can also be useful for determining if the battery was over or undersized.
- Solar Power and Genset Power – PM2120: This chart shows the solar power generated as well as the diesel power generated. This graph is important for understanding why a battery might not have been fully charged, determining if a solar PV array is dirty and investigating diesel consumption.
- Inverter Power: The final chart shows the power output of the three SMA Sunny Island Battery inverters. This chart is important for understanding the charging and discharging characteristics of the batteries.
The local operator has continuous, 24/7 access to the dashboard as well as remote support from One Renewable’s engineering staff.
This collaboration has streamlined operations across the company’s engineering and local operator teams, and demonstrated enormous potential for replication across the many remote islands in the Philippine archipelago.
Looking ahead, these three systems have the potential to be retrofitted with remote control capabilities.
For example, long-term analysis on the performance of the system can be used to optimize generator diesel consumption. This will become more important as diesel prices continue to rise.
“We are able to harness the power of technology to remotely monitor the performance of 3 off-grid solar hybrid micro-grid sites on two separate islands, from a single dashboard!”
Erel Narida, President / CEO, One Renewable