Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bermuda Electric and the importance of planning

In island locations like Bermuda, the design and maintenance of power systems  can require more effort

This is the second post of a multi-part series on the success achieved by the Bermuda Electric Company (BELCO). In my previous post, I talked about how Wonderware software's reliability and ease of use helped BELCO be self sufficient and have the capability to provide a secure, reliable and sustainable electric power system. In this post, I'd like to talk about the importance of planning and how Wonderware helps in long term decision making, modernization and legacy migration.

In most areas in North America, electricity is an expected amenity. We almost take it for granted because we know that the infrastructure that creates and delivers power is reliable and solid. There are so many power plants spread out throughout the United States that the failure of one or two plants won't affect the supply of electricity. In island locations like Bermuda however where resources are limited, the design, operation and maintenance of power systems requires more planning and effort.

Over one hundred years of service

BELCO has successfully fulfilled its mission to provide electricity to the people of Bermuda for over one hundred years. No mean feat I know, considering the limited resources and the remoteness of the island's location.

In 2005, BELCO completed the development of the East Power Station, the culmination of several projects that expanded capacity to meet growing demands as well as increased the efficiency of the company’s operations. Among other things, this also required the improvement of the existing control system. In particular, the software that provides supervisory control to the various systems in the power plants and substations spread out across the different islands.

BELCO has been a Wonderware user since 1995. They have been using InTouch as their main HMI to monitor and control all the plants and substations that provide power to the island chain. It has served them well through the years. As new equipment and plants are put on-line, the ease of use of the Wonderware software has enabled them to easily and seamlessly create the connections and graphics.

The investment that BELCO has spent in buying the software, developing the applications, creating the screens, connecting to the various hardware and controllers is not lost.

Easy upgrade and Upward Compatibility

Here's where the planning paid off: BELCO knows about how easy it is to maintain Wonderware InTouch because of a key feature called upward compatibility. They know that the HMI screens and applications that were created in 1995 can, with a few keystrokes, be upgraded to whatever is the current version in 2013.
This is important because no other automation software can claim this: the investment that BELCO has spent in buying the software, developing the applications, creating the screens, connecting to the various hardware and controllers is not lost. In fact, it gets enhanced with each passing year.
This is one big advantage for BELCO: they stay continously current and get the benefits of the new technology because it's easy for them to upgrade their computers and servers, their operating systems and automation software. In effect, they get to increase yield, make the plants safer and get better performance from new and aging equipment without spending a fortune.

"We at BELCO, selected the Wonderware products to help us deal with some of the challenges we were dealing with an aging plant and we needed the ability to see what was going on in detail in our various processes." 
Denton Williams VP of Energy Supply

More information

In my next post, I will be talking about another important benefit that BELCO got from Wonderware - the ability to connect to the different controllers and devices that are spread out through the power plants.
In the meantime, you can get more information by reading up on the following:
  1. Post on how BELCO takes advantage of Wonderware's reliability and ease of use
  2. To know more about current HMI trends, read the ARC insight on how "HMI Platforms Evolve to Become Key Automation Solution Components"
  3. Listen to the Control Engineering Webcast on Graphic Design for HMIs
I'll be back with more BELCO success in my next post but if you have any questions, send me an email.