Inmarsat provides satellite IoT connectivity for rural hydroelectric power stations

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Satellite operator Inmarsat is providing IoT connectivity for rural hydroelectric power stations in Wales.

The RWE-owned power stations in the mountainous region of Snowdonia in northwest Wales harness water to generate renewable electricity.

Snowdonia is the wettest area in Wales, with average annual rainfall totals exceeding 3000mm—making the region comparable to the English Lake District or the western Highlands of Scotland.

The region is an ideal location for generating hydroelectric power, but not for having reliable connectivity.

Rather than send staff out to manually collect measurements, RWE wanted to find an IoT solution that would provide up-to-date information. To overcome the connectivity problem, RWE decided that it required satellite assistance.

A specialist provider, Ground Control, was brought in to design and deploy four solar-powered, IoT-enabled hydrological stations across RWE’s catchment areas that connect to Inmarsat’s ELERA network which boasts 99.9 percent availability.

Each station measures and records water levels, precipitation, air and water temperatures, and relative humidity. Data is gathered from the sensors at 15-minute intervals and transmitted using Hughes 9502 terminals every three hours via Inmarsat’s BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) M2M service.

The valuable data is used to maximise electricity production, reduce waste, and minimise any damage to the environment and infrastructure from overspills.

John McNab, Operations and Maintenance Engineer at RWE UK, explains: 

“The accurate, up-to-date information supplied by our BGAN-connected hydrology stations lets us know exactly what’s happening in our catchments, so we can take the right decisions at the right time to make as much renewable energy for our customers as possible.

Insight into weather conditions helps us plan to do our maintenance at the right time too. It also lets us know whether it’s safe for staff to venture out to do checks and site maintenance at a certain location. If the temperature is too low or the conditions too icy, we know to keep our people indoors until the weather improves.”  

As the world seeks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels – due to concerns over climate change and soaring gas prices – the case study provides a great example of the pivotal role the IoT will play in helping to provide solutions to such crises.

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