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UK Power: Reducing costs while increasing reliability

There aren’t many ways in which to compete in an industry as regulated as electricity distribution, so every opportunity to improve productivity, reduce operating and maintenance costs and increase the reliability of your network should be taken. This is exactly what UK Power Networks has done in its ongoing program of network improvement. It has turned to Signalhorn to implement technology enhancements through state-of-the-art SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) network management software (ENMAC) from GE Power and an overlay satellite telecommunications network from Signalhorn.

The challenge

In a long term project UK Power Networks and Signalhorn have been working together to validate the use of satellite technology for the SCADA application that is used to collect data and control their electricity distribution network. Initially, the network was operated from Signalhorn’s state-of-the-art teleport and network operating centre located in Backnang, Germany. The early rollout was a success and Signalhorn was called upon to design and build a 7.6m antenna and hub facility at an UK Power Networks site in England. Construction was completed on time and the new hub and infrastructure came online at the end of 2007. Signalhorn continues to maintain a fully redundant back-up system at their teleport in Germany whilst remotely managing the primary hub in the UK.

The solution

Implementing this network via satellite was essential as it enabled immediate coverage across the South East whilst giving UK Power Networks the option to extend the SCADA network to other new regions. The technology deployed utilizes a TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) access scheme which shares the available bandwidth across hundreds of sites, thereby giving a cost-effective solution. This choice of technology is also highly scalable, allowing for growth in both number of sites and bandwidth, should the size of the network or the nature of the application change.

The choice to manage the hub at a UK Power Networks site was key to their control requirements and to providing a highly reliable and available network when integrated with the UK Power Networks terrestrial back up system over GPRS. Whilst everything can be monitored centrally and close at hand UK Power Networks can ensure that their infrastructure remains the most highly available and competitive in the market.

Mark Fiske, Operational Telecoms Manager UK Power said, “We are committed to the improvement of our infrastructure and the control of our networks is as important as the switching and distribution itself. We chose satellite as a natural medium of transport for reliable control and monitoring of our network and we have not been disappointed from our experience of both the technical solution and in working with Signalhorn.”

Christian Stetter, former VP of Sales at Signalhorn, said: “The opportunity to work cooperatively with UK Power Networks has been both exciting and rewarding for Signalhorn who has taken a fundamental requirement through all stages of implementation to provide a fully functional and highly reliable system that will ensure UK Power Networks can continue to maintain and deliver a reliable and flexible electricity supply and distribution network.”

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