Wireless comment: LCRA power plant becomes Invensys infrastructure site


The Lost Pines Power Park, operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is implementing wireless infrastructure based on Invensys and Apprion networking technology. The initial application, now online, involves wireless voice communication via WiMax/WiFi. The larger Power Park actually includes two separate power plants that are now under common management and will be linked with shared layered wireless infrastructure.

Implementation of this project began with a comprehensive site assessment study to support wireless network design and engineering. The first application is mobile voice over IP (VoIP) which allows hands-free personal communications, paging, and PA under the wireless broadband umbrella. The second phase will involve wireless equipment condition monitoring, including leak detection, fuel tank levels, video surveillance, and walk-around tablet PC's for operators.

This implementation strategy is certainly consistent with a conservative, incremental approach, beginning with a site study and plan, and then choosing an application that is not highly critical. Once the technology is proven, the effort will gradually move into more strategic areas one step at a time. Invensys and Apprion have been stressing the importance of network management and discouraging the proliferation of small, experimental wireless network tests carried out without a thorough plan. ( Click here to read an earlier article, "How should one build a wireless network?")

The notion of beginning with less critical systems will undoubtedly be a common approach for new users, regardless of the specific technology platform they embrace. Dave Runkle, production manager at Lost Pines, observes, "There's certainly a lot of hype in the marketplace about wireless technology being the next game-changer in automation, and while this might indeed be true, it also means that the technology is still relatively unproven in many of the types of industrial wireless applications that we are considering. Based on the highly successful track record of our 10+ year strategic technology partnership with Invensys, we are highly confident that the benefits will be sustainable."

—Edited by Peter Welander , process industries editor,
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