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Equipment Health Monitoring for Complex Business Models

Grant Gerke | August 23, 2018

Canadian Solar's business model includes manufacturing photovoltaic solar panels but also managing installed solar power assets


Equipment health monitoring from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) has been a significant theme in manufacturing for the last five to ten years. Back in 2016, Jonas Berge, director of applied technology at Emerson (St. Louis, www.emerson.com) said this at an ARC conference in India:

“Plants don’t want to buy equipment anymore,” stated Berge. They want us to do all the measurement analytics for them and give them an action report. It’s a digital transformation.”

Berge added, “Emerson’s remote-monitoring business model charges customers per asset, according to Berge. “If we monitor stream traps, we charge them per steam trap per month,” said Berge. The same thing would be for a pump or a cooling tower, whatever the case.”

Canadian Solar’s (Guelph, Canada, www.canadiansolar.com) business model includes manufacturing photovoltaic solar panels but also manages installed solar power assets. For the managed assets division, the company enlisted Inductive Automation (Folsom, Calif. www.inductiveautomation.com) Ignition platform to help manage twelve separate power plant assets via one open supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) platform.

With the help of system integrator Eramosa Engineering, Inc., (Guelph, Canada, www.eramosa.com) the solar manufacturer  created CSEye, a custom asset performance monitoring and computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) application for the operations & maintenance of these assets.

Ignition’s open SCADA platform is used in many types of industries, such as water/wastewater, oil and gas and cleantech. The platform allows system integrators to build out or customize functionality for each customer.

According to Eramosa, “we provided a customizable application development environment providing full access to critical operational data from various existing SCADA architectures while allowing the project to scale as needs arose.”

Some of the benefits and technology features are below:

  • A single web-launched application for performance monitoring and maintenance management.
  • A single application generating specific and relevant content for all users, including control room operators, data analysts, technicians, portfolio owners, and senior executives.
  • Ability to turn performance deviations and system alarms into actionable work orders with technician dispatch and resolution tracking.
  • Standard charting tools for performance monitoring while providing fully customizable Python scripting and database queries for development of the maintenance management system.
  • Using gateway services and distributed tags for centralized alarming and alarm management.
  • Pulling historical and real-time data from various architectures including OPC-UA, Modbus, Ethernet IP, Siemens Ethernet, and RESTful web services.
  • Configuring/deploying a spoke using templated UDT tagging structures, thus allowing for cost-effective integration to the central gateway
    UDT tagging structures to provide tagging standardization at the central gateway.

According to Eramosa, Canadian Solar choose this platform due its ability to scale — multiple types of plant protocols can be integrated — and be integrated into new assets outside of Canadian Solar’s technology and  data models.

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Grant Gerke

Grant Gerke

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