The use of technology has easily outpaced the network’s capacity, introducing bottlenecks and inefficiencies that can be economically devastating. As alternative energy projects become more complex, wireless networks must keep pace.

Capitalizing on the Adoption of New Technologies in Alternative Energy Plants
Capitalizing on the Adoption of New Technologies in Alternative Energy Plants

Al Rivero, VP of Sales, Global Energy, | Rajant Corporation

Air pollution is a major problem worldwide in both developed and developing countries. The rapid increase in population and demand for energy have resulted in emission of toxic air pollutants that affect the surrounding environment as well as human health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 4 million deaths, along with numerous cases of respiratory illness, result annually from air pollution in developing countries (WHO, 2015, 2016). The primary air pollutants which are responsible for deteriorating air quality are oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ozone (O3). The transport sector is the primary source of air pollution, especially in urban cities. It has been reported that in developing countries, most of the air pollution (approx. 70–80%) is caused by vehicular emissions, particularly from a larger number of older vehicles with low vehicle maintenance, low fuel quality, and improper road infrastructure. Air pollution was considered to be a local problem with a large number of point sources. Still, the application of tall stacks, biomass burning, and long-range transport of pollutants has become a regional to a global problem.

Energy operators worldwide have turned their attention to greener energy to address not only climate change but also air pollution and health. This has seen a rise in the creation and operation of alternative energy sources. While it is predicted that renewable energy sources will account for almost 95% of the increase in global power capacity in 2026. The proliferation of this source could disrupt the entire supply chain, and with this increasing dependency on alternative energy sources, it is fundamental to have efficient energy production.

The worldwide pandemic, the changing operating philosophy and the need for remote operations have increased drastically across an array of business processes. Some industries have embraced this new way of working, but moving to remote operations has been difficult for others. Most operators have been traditionally ‘hands-on’ and making the transition to remote operations has posed serious concerns and has proven to be an uncomfortable compromise for several reasons. The use of technology has easily outpaced the network’s capacity, introducing bottlenecks and inefficiencies that can be economically devastating. As alternative energy projects become more complex, wireless networks must keep pace.


Embracing new technologies in onshore operations

In 2021, renewable energy sources accounted for about 12.2% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 20.1% of electricity generation. With the escalating growth of the alternative energy market worldwide, it is not surprising that the industry is embracing the latest technologies to ensure increased productivity, efficiency, and safety. Energy operations typically involve harsh conditions and hazardous tasks, with remote locations ensuring that unmanned systems can be utilized to inspect, secure, maintain, and repair an intelligent choice. 

The introduction of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to alternative energy operations means fewer people are required on operational sites. In turn, this minimizes the number of possible staffing incidents and removes the need for people to work in harsh conditions, as certain tasks can be operated by smart technology. IIoT is, therefore, vital to enable remote operations in the heavy construction and maintenance of alternative energy sites. As more complex IIoT applications are introduced, however, operators must ensure processes and procedures can work seamlessly with new technologies.

From renewable energy wind farms to hydroelectric facilities, people no doubt envision drones flying over these plants for security and inspection purposes. However, many other forms of autonomous robotics can also enhance the production, efficiency, and safety of maintenance and performance. There are crawling robots, driving robots, cleaning robots, and even construction robots. All of these Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) are used today by the renewable energy industry. These systems have complex payloads to carry out repetitive, redundant, and often dangerous tasks. Autonomous robots carry high resolution and infrared cameras, live-stream video, sensors - all carrying volumes of data they are expected to communicate dynamically.

An easily deployable and dynamic network is essential to support the world’s move to efficient alternative energy sources. By connecting the likes of wind, solar, and hydropower technologies and UGVs, renewable energy plants can form a truly autonomous IIoT environment. Enabling remote transmission with this advanced technology in alternative energy environments requires real-time machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.


Connectivity is key to unlocking a remote industry

Energy companies face daunting challenges when planning and implementing a communications network that provides site-wide mobile access to vital data, voice, and video. In the face of intense economic pressure, organizations strive to maintain continuous operations, increase productivity, and cut operating costs while maintaining safety standards.

While it is clear M2M communication is a critical part of establishing Industry 4.0 capabilities in alternative energy environments, deploying a network to support these connectivity demands in a dynamic and inherently hazardous environment can be difficult. If a connection is interrupted, essential data could be lost, and the autonomous platform could be rendered immobile. 

Alternative energy plants use cellular technology since long-term evolution (LTE) technology has sufficient bandwidth for most traditional applications. Eventually, as these modernized technologies are added, they discover coverage issues and dropped packets, because of blockages caused by wind turbines and the solar panels themselves, for example. Next, they may turn to traditional Wi-Fi and start to put fixed access points throughout the environment and discover more coverage issues and blockages. It becomes cost prohibitive to continue to add access points. When operations are concentrated in a small area, Wi-Fi or LTE communications can be plagued by interference, physical obstructions, and other deployment issues.

Rajant Kinetic Mesh® overcomes these problems with wireless nodes called BreadCrumbs®. The BreadCrumbs function on multiple frequencies to ensure the required wireless connection. The larger the wind or solar farm becomes, or with more unmanned systems added, the Rajant network scales to meet the demand and remains just as reliable. Rajant’s network is quick and easy to deploy, making it integral to enabling robotics and IIoT for the alternative energy sector.

Rajant BreadCrumbs seamlessly integrate with any Wi-Fi or Ethernet-connected device to deliver low latency, high-throughput data, as well as voice and video applications across a meshed, self-healing network. Any information that can be sent over Ethernet can be sent over a Kinetic Mesh network.


Transitioning to greener energy

As the world continues to stress the need to reduce carbon footprints in the energy industry, improving operational efficiency and safety will also add to the trajectory toward cleaner and greener energy. Reliance on IIoT and M2M connectivity to enhance productivity, streamline operations, and control costs have created a demand for private wireless mesh networks. This, alongside many forms of robotics, can ease the move to remote processes.

To achieve and maintain peak productivity, mission-critical applications need to run on a communications network that offers reliable, agile, and adaptable connectivity that can thrive in diverse and evolving mobility-driven environments. 

With a reliable network in place, such as Rajant Corporation’s Kinetic Mesh wireless network, advanced technologies will be enabled, catalyzing the production of more efficient and safer operations. This will allow alternative energy companies to transition smoothly to a greener world.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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