Alarm Mobility Increases Hydro Plant Reliability

The City of Edmundston is the only municipality in New Brunswick to produce its own electricity.  The Energy Department has three hydro generating stations including two on the Madawska River near the confluence of the St. Johns and another on the Green River.  Their combined 6 turbines generate 8.3 Megawatts which produces 26 million Kilowatt-hours yearly for the city's 9,000 total customers. 

In 2011 the Edmundston Energy Department brought in Roy Consultants to modernize their control systems in order to improve their operations and provide better service to their customers.  An older DOS Based system which was installed in the 80's was replaced with a new Citect SCADA system and TopView Alarm Notification system.  The new system monitors all aspects of the municipal electric utility including the 3 Hydro-power generation plants, 4 sub stations and the distribution system.

Edmundston Energy Hydro Plant"The goal was to provide Energy Department personnel with enhanced mobility and flexibility with a system that would provide real time status and control remotely" said Roy Consultants Engineer, Alain Carrier.   "By integrating the TopView Alarm Notification software with the SCADA system, operators are now able to receive alarm messages in real-time on their cell phones and can acknowledge these alarms from anywhere."

The system monitors virtually every aspect of the energy distribution system including line voltage and amperage, loads and power factors as well as demand at any given time.  A single event or combination of events may result in up to 500 possible alarms .  The original system was only capable of providing pre-recorded messages over a telephone modem.  "Our people were always tethered to a phone line and had to be somewhere that provided a dial-up modem" said Michael Couturier of Edmundston Energy.  "The new system sends customized messages to the operators' cell phones in real time, freeing them to move about while enabling them to also respond more quickly as the alarms can be acknowledged remotely from their phones as well."

Edmundston Energy has personnel on call 24/7 to ensure uninterrupted service.  In the event of an alarm the operator on-call gets a voice message sent to their cell phone.  Simultaneously, managers receive an email informing them of the situation.  The operator can respond by acknowledging the alarm remotely from their phone.  They can then dispatch the appropriate personnel to deal with the issue.  If they fail to respond within a set timeframe a call is sent out to a second operator, then a third and a fourth if the condition remains unacknowledged. 

"Reliability is the name of the game" said Michael Couturier, "Getting real-time information has enabled our operators to react quicker, which has helped us resolve problems faster and in some cases even avoid them all together.  It has also helped us maintain our equipment better by providing performance data."

The way that Edmundston Energy's alarm notification system is currently configured, a separate message is dispatched for each individual alarm condition.  This means that one incident could generate several messages to the operator.  For example if a feeder goes down on a 3 phase line the system monitors all three phases and would send three messages, one for each of the failed phases.

"TopView has added the ability to group alarms into a single message to avoid inundating an operator with calls", explains Alain Carrier.   "Edmundston Energy is looking into adding this capability to their system in the near future as part of their ongoing effort to improve their system."

Many jobs today require the worker to be connected wherever they are. Whether its voice and text messages on your cell phone or emails to your desktop computer, having the information you need to make decisions and respond is critical.  Nowhere is this truer than in utilities.  Providing uninterrupted electrical power to your customers requires constant monitoring and the ability to respond almost instantly.  Edmundston Energy is employing the latest in alarm monitoring and notification technology to allow their support staff to stay connected and enabling them to respond to their customer's continuous need for energy.

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