Part 1 – Background and Motivation for the System
My name is David Smith and I am third year CES student here at Strathclyde and I have been participating in one of the universities Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) which aims to develop devices and best practices for encouraging renewable energy in the developing world. The VIP, Sustainable Energy for Development, consists of a multidisciplinary team of students and staff who have specialisms ranging from engineering to business. This is part 1 of a 3 part blog post that will look into the experience of installing a remote monitoring system in the Gambia
The Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) department has been running The Gambia Project for a number of years where we have been installing solar installations in a number of different locations throughout rural Gambia. This year was no different and in December a team consisting of ten students and staff who were involved in the VIP set out to Gambia with the aim to carry out a number of tasks such as maintenance of older systems, the installation of a new system and the gathering of information vital to the success of the project.
Another one of the key tasks on the trip involved the deployment of a prototype remote condition monitoring system. This system had been developed as a fourth year project by Daniel Chakraverty and will continue to be developed as part of the VIP. I had been involved in the development of sensors for the system and therefore I was accompanying Daniel on the trip in order to help make sure the deployment ran as smoothly as possible. The system has been designed in order to acquire data from our remote solar installations in The Gambia and transmit the data back to the University for processing and collation.
There are a number of motivations for the development of a remote monitoring system. With expeditions to The Gambia only occurring once a year it is very difficult to gather information on how our systems are used. Furthermore, the harsh environmental conditions coupled with inexperienced users mean that system breakdowns can be more common than they would be in ideal conditions. The data which this system provides is incredibly useful in showing how the energy is used, how close to capacity the system is running, when parts of the system fail (even down to single light bulbs) and provide valuable information for troubleshooting. Overall the data collected is invaluable in improving the sustainability of our systems and in helping us develop strategies which encourage the use of renewable energy to drive development.
Our system consists of two main sub systems:
- The remote monitoring device which uses sensors acquires all the necessary data from the solar installation which it is installed on. It will then secure a connection to our central server at Strathclyde and send all the data which has been collected.
- The central server which is situated at The University of Strathclyde. This device will foster connections from all remote devices in the field then retrieve all data which is sent. The server will then store this data in an SQL database which can be queried whenever access to the data is required.
This design means that in the future the devices can be easily installed in a number of different locations, data will be easily accessible for future applications and there is potential for features such as two way communication and remote control of the system.