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Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 110 / 7
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Solar-power provider improves integration and data analysis

A solid technology platform is enabling DEPCOM Power to rapidly scale its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Software tools are making it easy to build flexible SCADA solutions, human- machine interfaces, IIoT connectivity and add tags, clients, and projects without additional costs.

DEPCOM POWER DESIGNS, BUILDS AND operates utility-scale solar power plants. With all its recent growth, the company relies on a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that will scale quickly and easily for years to come. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., DEPCOM has been growing rapidly, and has plans to continue its expansion.

DEPCOM selected Ignition technology, an industrial application platform with tools for building flexible solutions in SCADA, human- machine interface (HMI), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition also provides a unlimited licensing which allows DEPCOM to add tags, clients, and projects without additional costs. DEPCOM has been using the Ignition platofrm since 2015, after it was suggested by system integration company Vertech—another company with plenty of solar experience. Vertech and DEPCOM have created several projects in Ignition.

DEPCOM uses Ignition for monitoring and controlling solar power plants — and also for data analysis, troubleshooting, design, and reporting. By analyzing historical data from Ignition, DEPCOM continually improves plant performance and efficiency. DEPCOM also likes Ignition for its fast development tools and flexibility in integrating with other platforms.

“Seven of the nine power plants we operate and maintain are on Ignition,” said Jimmy Hood, director of plant operations for DEPCOM. “Ignition is a big improvement in SCADA integration. Other platforms can run you up in costs and headaches in a hurry. Ignition is very user-friendly, and easy to integrate with every data type, connection, and platform.”

DEPCOM Power controls and monitors seven solar-power plants.

Keep customers satisfied

DEPCOM has numerous stakeholders and customers including its own operators, independent engineers, banks, utilities, plant owners, and independent power producers. Integration with various entities and technologies has been much easier with Ignition than with previous systems DEPCOM has used. “We’ve got all kinds of customers now that are abandoning their usual platforms in favor of Ignition,” said John Schroeder, senior vice president of plant operations for DEPCOM.

The unlimited licensing model saves money for DEPCOM. “When we looked at Ignition compared to some of its competitors, something that really stuck out to us was the unlimited licensing, and the pricing, especially per tag,” said Schroeder. “Our business is very cost-competitive. We need to be as cost-competitive on software as we are when building these plants. The pricing and scalability of Ignition were very attractive to us.”

Better and faster

Schroeder noted that the performance of the system has also been impressive. “Usually, when you get to this type of scale, you see breakdowns,” said Schroeder. Fast development has also been a benefit of using this software technology. “Something that took two or three weeks before, now it takes two hours,” said Hood. DEPCOM rolls out sites very quickly, and Ignition allows the company to create customized applications in a hurry.

Kris Grindstaff, a renewable energy specialist with Vertech, has been working with DEPCOM closely, and he’s not surprised that DEPCOM is leveraging Ignition for numerous benefits. “I believe Ignition is the easiest platform to learn,” said Grindstaff. “And the designer is so intuitive. It allows you to build screens very quickly. It really seems like it was designed with the end user in mind; it bypasses a lot of the complexities you get with other systems.”

Finding value in more data

DEPCOM now has more data than ever before, and it’s able to make sense of that data. “One of the great benefits for DEPCOM is Ignition’s ability are happening faster at the company since Ignition was implemented.

DEPCOM isn’t slowing down. “At the end of 2018, we’ll be rolling our operations center into a building about three times the size of what we have currently,” said Schroeder. “We have plans to increase our footprint about 4X on the power plant side. And we expect Ignition to scale and grow along with us.” “We’ve also selected Ignition to help us design our new Fleet View system,” added Hood. “It will help monitor all plants on a single platform. From there we can remote in to each of the individual projects and further assess. Ignition will allow us to integrate all of the projects seamlessly on one platform. We have big plans to integrate all future projects with Ignition. We have customers requesting it on our second and third projects with them. It’s just been a powerful, great option for us.”

Application case history story by Inductive Automation.

Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 110 / 7
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