IT and Telecoms: Metacom enables Eskom Visibility Project
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GPRS technology is helping Eskom monitor and manage its distribution network to limit and in some cases eliminate network downtime and power outages.
“With power generation capacity under strain it’s critical that the distribution network is reliable,” explains Rean van Niekerk, Managing Director of communications supplier Metacom.
“We’re deploying thousands of communications devices every year as Eskom adds new substations, mini substations and reclosers to its monitoring network.”
Better visibility of its distribution network enables Eskom to pinpoint and fix faults more quickly, says Michael Rawson of the Electricity Delivery Systems Support (EDSS) department in Eskom’s North West regions. “We are one of Eskom’s largest geographical regions and a lot of our equipment is in dry, hot, remote areas that are difficult to get to.
Metacom’s GPRS solution enables us to see what’s going on everywhere in the network, right down to the level of the kiosk on an individual farm.”
Rawson and his team monitor whether there is power to a site and how much, the state of the plant and more. “We’re able to respond proactively and pre-empt problems before they arise in many cases.”
Several other Eskom regions have also followed North West’s example and implemented the Metacom GPRS communications system for their network visibility.
“I like the universality of a GPRS remote router,” says Allan Roberts of Eskom’s Eastern Region. “If you use a radio network you’re geographically limited; with GPRS we can communicate around the country.” In addition, he says, “GPRS is available just about everywhere, including places we can’t get UHF radio links in.”
Metacom supplies GPRS communications devices to Eskom, as well as the network and server infrastructure required to deliver messages from remote sensors to Eskom’s regional control centres via its SCADA master system.
“The success of the system we developed for Eskom required an extremely reliable communication link between the remote sites and the control centre,” explains Metacom’s chief technology officer Jako Winter.
“We made significant investments in creating a communications infrastructure that could offer the reliability required, and designed our remote routers with extensive self-monitoring and correction features.”
“Using cellular technology means cost-effective communication without compromising reliability,” adds Van Niekerk.
“We also have the backup of Diginet fixed lines, Eskom’s own networks and even satellite where nothing else is available.”
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