Software Maker 60Hertz Targets Microgrid Maintenance in Remote Regions

April 29, 2019
Alaska’s remote topography may make it an ideal place to build microgrids. But what do you about microgrid maintenance?

Alaska’s remote topography may make it an ideal place to build microgrids, all to bring reliable electricity to vital enterprises there that might otherwise have spotty coverage. But the same issues that can create pitfalls for central delivery systems present problems for localized solutions. What do you about microgrid maintenance?

Enter 60Hertz, which supports the maintenance of remote microgrids by empowering technicians with modern solutions that meet the many challenges associated with maintaining remote infrastructure. The company has previously worked with Vondafone, the World Food Program and Unilever, all to service villages, islanded grids and military installations.

The software thrives in remote or urban areas that have latent connectivity. And it has deployed its software to four microgrids operated by the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative in Eek, Quinhagak, Togiak and New Stuyahok.

“The software tells system operators their infrastructure needs maintenance,” says Tonya James, vice president of business development for 60Hertz, in an interview. “We offer transparency and watch whether the maintenance was actually done. Our customers need a system that operates in Alaska where there is poor connectivity. We created a product that does work.”

Prior to using the 60Hertz software, James says that the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative power plant operators tracked and reported all microgrid maintenance activities using a pen-and-pad and then faxing that information to system operators — an obviously inefficient process. Now the analysis is done digitally — things like taking oil temperatures and measuring peak generation.

Consider the local power plant operators in Eek: The site monitors were eager to learn but said they had little software proficiency. But 60Hertz was able to train them, and now use the technology thrice daily to monitor the microgrid. And the communities of New Stuyahok and Togiak are remote with poor connectivity. But the system operators have been able to adapt the software to stay atop their jobs by sending and receiving data. 

“The administrative burden has been replaced,” says James. This not only speeds things up and creates new efficiencies but it also avoids human error. “That means they are realizing savings. There is a holistic picture of the microgrid’s health.”

The software’s features include being able to keep daily logs, sending messages back-and-forth, tracking histories and keeping data while also being able to search local inventories and keep libraries of manuals, frequently asked questions and videos. The company says that its microgrid maintenance platform is suited to diesel, solar, battery, small hydropower and wind.

What are other examples of microgrid maintenance systems? Post below or on Microgrid Knowledge’s LinkedIn Group.

About the Author

Ken Silverstein

Since the late 1990s, I've covered energy, beginning with the rise and fall of Enron -- first as a magazine writer before becoming a columnist. For more than seven years, I've been a columnist for Forbes while also expanding my coverage to include key environmental issues and emerging technologies such as microgrids. I've also done some global reporting of those same issues that touch the African and Asian regions. My work has appeared in, and by cited by, dozens of publications and broadcasts.

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