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IIoT & Remote Communications

Powering Cloud Connections for Intelligent Devices 

For people who aren't immersed in technology trends, IIoT might be an unfamiliar term. What exactly is IIoT and why is it important? Experts predict that...

IIoT will become a major economic driverIIoT will change the way products are designed, produced and maintainedIIoT will create new services, and change how they are deliveredIIoT will improve operational efficiency and productivity across countless industriesIIoT is already at work, already revealing its future potential

To begin, IoT is the Internet of Things – smart devices with cloud-connected applications that largely benefit people's day-to-day lives. It is the smart phone that allows you to control your home thermostat while you are away.

IIoT is specifically the Industrial Internet of Things. IIoT combines technology, connectivity, automation and collected data from sensor embedded devices to advance science, technology and industry. The benefit is two-fold: data and automation.

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Solar & UPS Power for Remote Valve Actuator Applications

What You Need to Know about Powering These Systems

Valve actuators are a common necessity along vast stretches of pipeline infrastructure. Out in the middle of nowhere, line power can be less than dependable, costly to install on site, or is simply not available. Solar powered systems and line powered UPS systems can provide both the power and reliability to remotely operate a valve when the need arises.

Energy Reserves & Back-Up

In reviewing energy requirements first, a typical remote valve actuator site will have some sort of communication, whether it’s licensed radio, cellular, or satellite. This same site will likely have a small PLC or SCADA system. In the event of a power failure, several days of UPS backup power is desirable ­– enough time to get a person in a truck to the site.

In the case of a solar powered system, five days or more of backup time (autonomy) is required for proper system function during bad weather. Assuming a 40-Watt load for PLC, SCADA and communications, operating at 24 Volts DC, a system requires 200 Amp-hours of battery capacity. This value increases to 313 Amp-hours when the battery is properly de-rated for Depth-of-Discharge and End-of-Life. The energy requirements will vary, but even the smallest systems will likely have 100 Amp-hours of battery capacity.

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Solar Module Tilt Angles

To harvest the greatest energy from the sun, solar panels should face the sun directly with no obstructions that shade the panel. In the northern hemisphere, position the system so the panels face true south; in the southern hemisphere, north. In addition to the compass orientation, or azimuth, maximize the power produced by the panels by optimizing the tilt angle.

Panel tilt angles are determined by the angle at which the sun hits the earth at a specific location. Because the angle of sun changes throughout the day and season of the year, optimizing the angle is complex. One approach is to continually adjust the angle of the panel. This can be done manually two or four times a year,  or by using a solar tracking system.

Stand-alone remote power systems generally do not utilize tracking systems. Since the cost of solar modules has dropped in recent years, is simpler and more cost effective to use a fixed array with a few more modules.

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Artic Blasts? Cold Weather and Remote Solar Power Systems

With cold weather blasting in early this year, images of snowdrifts and downed power lines are in the news. If you are in charge of remote field operations, scenarios like this cause concern about the reliability of your assets, especially when access to the sites is blocked by the storm’s aftermath.

How reliable is solar power in sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice?The answer is that if a system is sized precisely, with the appropriate components, to compensate for cold temperatures, shorter days and periods of little or no sun, it will carry the load all winter without a hitch. That’s good news for difficult to reach locations, because a downed system is expensive and can leave assets cut off from control centers.

So what considerations are needed for a robust winter system?Winter Sun Hours

When sizing a solar power system for cold regions, the winter sun hour rating for the location is absolutely critical. Never accept a system that has been sized based on the average annual sun hours because it will eventually fail during the long cold winter. The lower the sun hour rating for the location, the more solar panels and batteries are needed to collect and store energy when sunlight is weak and days are short.

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Why You Should Seek 5S Manufacturers

To Improve Critical Delivery Time --- Its Time to Sharpen the Axe

Manufacturers are scrambling to increase capacity to meet demanding delivery schedules in the highly charged energy market. Increasing capacity and reducing delivery times begins with assessing the facility, available resources and processes, to maximize output and minimize wasted time. That’s where methodologies like Lean Manufacturing can make a difference. Lean Manufacturing is an initiative focused on eliminating waste in manufacturing processes to shortening the time between the customer order and shipment, ensuring your job gets delivered on time. When doing business with any manufacturer, one should always inquire about their techniques for process improvement.

Embarking on Lean Manufacturing Initiative and the 5S Methodology

The road to achieving Lean Manufacturing is long and involves a multitude of process steps. To focus on immediately reducing delivery times, a manufacturer should begin with the Flow segment of the manufacturing process. The first step is to initiate 5S Training, as Solarcraft has, to create and sustain a clean organized workplace. The 5S’s are:

SORT : sort the contents of the workplace and remove all unnecessary itemsSTRAIGHTEN : arrange the necessary items in their place and provide easy access and clear identificationSHINE :  clean everything, keep it clean and use cleaning to inspect the workplace and equipment for defectsSTANDARDIZE : create visual controls and guidelines for keeping the workplace organized, orderly and clean; in other words, maintain the shineSUSTAIN : institute training and discipline to ensure that everyone follows the 5S standards

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Gas Chromatographs

Understanding Basic Field Operation and Their Critical Role in Natural Gas Revenue

Natural gas custody stations are equipped with gas chromatographs, which measure and report the composition of the natural gas at that point in the line. The value of the gas is based on its hydrocarbon composition; thus accurate reporting is critical to the company’s fiscal bottom line. In addition, correct installation and secure operation of the gas chromatograph (GC) is also key to the company revenue stream. Below explains how the gas chromatograph does its job and underscores the importance of the site installation for accurate performance. 

As gas field production has become automated, most gas chromatographs (GC’s) systems operate at remote metering stations. Ideally the system is housed in a protective shelter or enclosure as close to the sample point on the pipeline as is possible. The location should be easily accessible for maintenance technicians, provide for storage of calibration and carrier gas and have reliable power and remote communication connections.

► Gas Chromatograph Purpose & Operation

The purpose of the gas chromatograph (GC) is to measure the concentration of hydrocarbons in the natural gas and send the information to the control center for record keeping, billing and auditing. The GC does this in three distinct steps: take a sample of the flowing gas in the pipeline; separate the sample into its components; measure the concentration of the components as compared to the volume of the sample.

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Product Development

When Design, Engineering & Custom Fabrication Capabilities Reach New Heights

Imagine you have developed an idea, sketched it on a napkin, successfully pitched it to your client who requires just such solution, and now you are ready to take your idea to the next step. You need a working prototype and you do not have your own R&D shop. Who do you work with to propel your concept to reality?

YOU NEED EXPERTISE IN MANY AREAS:

Mechanical and electrical engineering designFabrication drawingsCustom metal fabricationElectrical integrationPower integrationHuman interface and ergonomicsSystem testingRevisions and improvements until the final product is reached

Each of the steps outlined above likely signifies a separate entity, requiring you to manage the project step by step. Expediting the project becomes a full time job of coordinating schedules from several service providers. In addition, there are numerous time delays while the project moves back and forth through revisions.

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PWM vs MPPT Solar Charge Controllers

What’s the Difference?

The charge controller is a key component of a solar power system and specifying the best one for the system requires some analysis. Below is a quick overview.

The two types of charge controllers most commonly used in today’s solar power systems are pulse width modulation (PWM) and maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Both adjust charging rates depending on the battery's charge level to allow charging closer to the battery’s maximum capacity as well as monitor battery temperature to prevent overheating.

► Comparing the Two

If maximizing charging capacity were the only factor considered when specifying a solar controller, everyone would use a MPPT controller. But the two technologies are different, each with it’s own advantages. The decision depends on site conditions, system components, size of array and load, and finally the cost for a particular solar power system.

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Solar 101

Assessing the Site's Potential Power

The first factor to consider when designing solar power systems is how much solar power potential does the site have --- how much does the sun shine and for how long?

At Solarcraft we base our calculations on NREL data for Typical Winter Peak Sun Hours. Using this number rather than Average Annual Peak Sun Hourrating ensures that the system delivers reliable continuous power in worst-case conditions, year after year. Other factors that affect the power rating for the site are:

Geographic location relative to the equator (longitude)Seasonal & historical weather patternsTerrain (shaded ravines, mountains, forests)Particulates (sand, pollen, tree sap, ice and snow)Infrastructure (shade from buildings, towers, other solar arrays)Weather

Weather extremes impact the performance of a solar power system. Not only is sunshine affected during these events, adverse weather can damage solar arrays, over-heat or freeze batteries, or even flood systems.

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Let Us Supply Your Key Components and Help Reduce Your Lead Times

The Frustration of Schedule Delays

One of the most frustrating status reports in our production department is “waiting on customer supplied parts”. Vexing to schedulers, expediters and customers alike, it means an almost-completed system is held up because a key component is still on order. The result is that delivery dates are extended, and shipping and installation schedules have to be adjusted. This is not only frustrating; it is expensive to all parties involved.

The Causes

Extended manufacturer’s lead times. Sourcing problems. Overseas shipping delays. Unresponsive suppliers. Some of the most hard-to-get components are also the heart of the systems:

RTU and PLC’s (including Emerson ControlWave, Fisher Roc, Thermo Fisher, ABB Total Flow, SCADA Pack, and Eagle)PLC power and I.O. cards (including ControlWave, Fisher Roc)Door Displays and Interface KeypadsDC to AC InvertersSolar ControllersRadios (Including AirLink, Freewave, MDS)Enclosure Climate Control Units (Including Iceqube and Noren)Ethernet SwitchesRoutersGas ChromatographsPressure and Temperature Transmitters

The Solarcraft Work Around:  At Solarcraft we routinely specify, procure and/or inventory these items to complete system integration orders. We work hard to develop and maintain an advantageous relationship with multiple part suppliers. As a result we can often procure components in less time and at lower prices than companies that purchase them sporadically. We maintain a stock of common parts that have historically long lead times such as I.O. cards and RTU’s.

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Gas Detection Saves Lives: Make Reliable Solar Power Part of the Solution

Modern gas detection systems ensure a safe environment for workers and equipment — they provide timely alerts giving crews the critical minutes they need to complete a safe shutdown and evacuation of the site, as well as, signal control centers of the emergency.

And with the increasing number of oil and gas production rigs in close proximity to population centers means that gas monitoring is more critical than ever to minimizing risk of harm to nearby landowners, neighborhoods and municipalities. 

Where Do Standard Gas Detection Systems Fall Short?


Many gas detection systems are designed with rechargeable or replaceable batteries. These batteries need maintenance at regular intervals according to manufacturers specifications. Therein lies one problem — maintaining batteries for critical devices requires manpower, time, logistics and oversight.

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Powering Wireless Technology and Tank Gauging

Minimizing risks to workers and damage to the environment while controlling costs is top of mind across all industries, and the petrochemical industry is no exception. Safety is a way of life; but protecting workers from the inherent dangers within storage tank farms extends beyond training and procedures to better technology.

Technologies such as wireless tank gauging, controls and communications networks within storage tank facilities have improved safety by bringing real-time information to control rooms even when the tanks are located far from the main facility. Moreover, wireless gauging means workers need not risk exposure to hazardous substances while performing manual gauging.

Easy to Deploy

Solarcraft offers a portable reinforced concrete base with forklift slots for easy transport. The base takes the place of a concrete pad or in-ground support footings. No digging is required at the site, bypassing the survey and permitting process. A pole mounted or pedestal mounted enclosure and solar array is securely bolted to the concrete base to anchor the enclosure and array.

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Innovative Solutions for Remote Control Valve Systems

Breaking Down Barriers: Overcoming Power and Distance Limitations

Remote control valves and actuators virtually connect remote assets to the control room located miles or even hundreds of miles away. Operators are able to respond to emergency events in a fraction of the time it would take to get a technician out to the site, and do it remotely reducing risk to personnel, and minimizing environmental impact.

Where are Remote Control Valves Needed?PipelinesRefineriesTank farmsPetrochemical facilitiesOil & gas production well sitesWhat are the Barriers that Limit Installation of Remote Control Valves?

With such positive benefits for safety and operations, why aren’t all valves controlled remotely? In most cases, the problem is the expense and logistics associated with bringing reliable utility power and communications to the asset.

Distance to remote assets requiring extensive trenchingEnvironmental surveys and permit requirementsLand access and rights-of-ways permissionsHazards of construction near pipelines and other infrastructuresConstruction delaysWhat are the Alternatives? 

New failsafe valve actuationand modulated flow valve power and control applications use modern DC or AC powered valve actuators. These systems can also include local controls forfailsafe valve actuation.

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Site Access / Intrusion Monitoring

Keeping Your Site in Your Sights – Always

The phenomenal development of domestic oil and gas fields has attracted some not-so-welcome players. Modern oilfield thieves operate in remote locations stealing valuable assets. Or, theft can take place in plain sight disguised as normal operations as vehicles enter and leave the site. Oilfield theft is underreported but is estimated to cost the industry hundreds of millions each year, and it is on the rise. The targets range from oil and gas itself, expensive high-tech equipment, communication equipment, heavy machinery, valves, pipe, tools, batteries, solar panels, vehicles and laptops.

Minimize Your Risk Through Planning and Deterrence

Be sure to develop a site security plan that includes reliable remote systems that restrict access, visually monitor vehicles and personnel at access points and collect and report data. An Internet-based system provides a secure connection to authorized personnel in real time, in your vehicle, from a central field office, or headquarters located hundreds of miles away.

Install integrated power and control systems like these built by Solarcraft:

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HAZLOC - Don’t Risk Catastrophe with Non-Certified Systems

When your project requires a Class I Division 2 certified (CID2) system, it does not simply call for a system built with CID2 certified components; a CID2 certified system is greater than the sum of its parts. To explain, a CID2 system meets standards established by the National Electric Code (NEC) for safety and is certified to meet those standards by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory Company like Intertek or UL.

Two Levels of Certification

A NRTL evaluates an Integrator’s system design on a component level and complete system level. If components already carry a CID2 approval, they can quickly be evaluated for safety in the system’s application and added to the Integrator’s master list of components. While the individual system components under normal operating conditions are not expected to arc, spark or produce excessive heat, the NRTL has to be certain that the interaction between components will not create a problem. The complete system design is evaluated for safety and compliance within standards, some of which are listed below:

Schematic designWiring methodsOperating temperaturesLighting fixturesConnectorsConduitsEnclosuresWhy Purchase from an Experienced CID2 Integrator like Solarcraft?

With so much to think about, consider using an integrator that is familiar with the process of certifying CID2 systems. Integrators that are authorized and experienced have a great deal to offer.

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DC Generator : More Power, Less Fuel

Written by Robert Collins, lead Solarcraft Engineer

When we think of a generator, we think of something burning fuel to create our standard 60 Hertz AC voltage. For remote power applications this may not be the most efficient choice. This is especially true when the equipment we are trying to power requires low voltage DC power.

The old standard for AC generators is an engine running at a fixed RPM (speed) in order to create the fixed frequency of 60 Hertz AC power. If the back-up power required is small when compared to generator’s capability, excess fuel is consumed… because of the fixed RPM of the engine. These types of generators achieve peak efficiency when powering a large, constant, AC load.

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Giga-Box - Ultimate Power Reserve Solution

Solarcraft’s Giga-Box battery backup enclosure is designed from the ground up for reliability, economy, safety and versatility; specifically designed to house batteries in an indoor or outdoor environment. Primary, back-up and solar power systems can take advantage of the larger electrical storage capacities without requiring a dedicated building. With the Solarcraft Giga-Box battery backup enclosure system, utility power is no longer connected to the utility but directly to the Giga-Box. The Giga-Box doesn't have to reassign the power since it's the primary source. No line dip, no brown outs.

What's more the Giga-Box is designed for the purpose of storing batteries. Accessible from both front and back, this access allows for visual inspections and makes for easy maintenance and service without completely disassembling the system. However, if needed, the walls and top detach allowing a single technician the ability to maintenance, service, inspect, replace or repair a system housing thousands of amp hours in battery storage.

52" Giga-Box, Single High

54"h x 54.25"w x 32"d– 1 Unigy Battery AVR95-17, 19 & 21 24V battery module– 1 Unigy Battery AVR95-23, 25 & 27 24V battery module– 1 Unigy Battery AVR95-29, 31 & 33 24V battery module

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GENERATOR X : Know Your Options for Back-up Battery Power

Written by Robert Collins, lead Solarcraft Engineer

The operation of metering, communication, and emergency systems can be maintained by an uninterruptible power system (UPS). Generators fulfill this need in most circumstances, but not without some interruption. When truly uninterrupted power is required, battery-based UPS systems are used to bridge the interruption. These systems can also operate without a back-up generator, entirely from the reserve energy stored in batteries.

There are several types of battery-based UPS systems. Emerging technologies offer promise with increases in efficiency and reductions in equipment cost. However, problems with reliability and utility have slowed industry acceptance. With reliability paramount in back-up applications, focus on tried and true methods for two different applications: the double-conversion AC UPS and the DC UPS.

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End-use Equipment – Working with Solar Power

Written by Robert Collins, lead Solarcraft Engineer

Essential and detailed input calculations and the correct choice of load equipment are vital for the solar-power design of robust remote systems.

Solar electric power is a practical, and in some cases, the only solution for powering remote equipment. Reliable, continuous, autonomous operation of end-use equipment is possible when a robust solar-electric system is in place. Proper system design requires essential inputs: careful choices in end-use equipment, a trustworthy estimation of power requirements, an understanding of the available solar resource and a description of the potential site.

The design of the solar power system naturally follows the selection of end-use, or ‘load’, equipment. However, selecting the right load equipment up front can go a long way in reducing the complexity, size, and cost, of a solar-powered system. Selection of load equipment should be driven by high efficiency and low-power consumption. When a solar system is purchased, essentially a 20-30 year supply of energy is being purchased in one shot. Power wasted is money wasted.

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Site Power: Drag and Drop UPS and Power Distribution

We recently developed a power system for a client that not only distributes power to an entire site, but resolved three specific issues:

site permits,clean compact UPS power generation,and consolidation of resources.

This system will be standard equipment for their meter stations across the country.

Problem: Before construction begins at most production sites, permits must be acquired. Site permits require a geotechnical survey and engineering drawings which add time and cost to a project. In areas with lots of oil and gas drilling and production, permitting agencies are busy---and backlogged. It is not unheard of for agencies to take one to three months to issue a permit.

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