A one-stop shop for monitoring and controlling remote Australian power stations

Oct 20, 2015

A one-stop shop for monitoring and controlling remote Australian power stations

Regional Control Centre at Parkeston an early mover in Western Australia

One of the first systems of its kind

Power stations in the middle of the outback need to be monitored and operated to make sure customers are receiving reliable power at all times. Technology has enabled the Regional Control Centre, located at our Parkeston power station in Western Australia (WA), to make sure that efficient monitoring and operating is done efficiently without the need for people to be stationed at each of these far-flung locations.

This technology, implemented over fourteen years ago, was one of the first systems of its kind in Western Australia, allowing five power stations, to be monitored and controlled remotely. TransAlta was an early mover to implement this type of system for isolated power station locations in WA, allowing us to continue to provide reliable, consistent and efficient power to our customers.

Remote monitoring improves reliability for customers

After solely operating our Parkeston power station for three years, TransAlta expanded its WA portfolio in 1999 by adding four new gas and diesel power stations. At the time, Parkeston near the town of Kalgoorlie, and the Southern Cross power stations were all monitored and controlled by separate local teams, with locations in remote areas. This includes the Mount Keith power station, approximately 450 km from Parkeston, and Leinster power station, which is approximately 370 km from Parkeston.

With power stations in remote areas, onsite operators worked on fly-in, fly-out rosters, with four days working at the power station site, and four days off work. Although separate local operators got the job done, the Australia team knew operating the five power stations could be done more efficiently.

“The idea of a RCC began with research and discussions on how other companies control their power stations and how TransAlta could improve its system,” says Jamie Crombie, Operations Manager. “By installing a RCC, we would standardize the way our facilities are operated and maintained, which would increase the reliability of our power.”

The RCC began monitoring and controlling all five sites owned by TransAlta in October 2001 at its Parkeston location near Kalgoorlie, WA and controls a combined generation capacity of 355 megawatts (MW). With the system, the site has full control of all gas and diesel facilities along TransAlta’s power station system with 24/7 monitoring.

How the RCC works

The RCC was one of the first systems of its kind in WA to monitor and control power stations in insolated locations from one place. The system uses a combination of TransAlta-owned and public utility communications links such as microwave and high speed radio to connect the centre with onsite personnel and data collecting systems, providing continuous visibility and control of the assets. Through these communication links, the RCC’s software is able to access and control all power station equipment.

One or two personnel work at the RCC during the day to monitor and control the system and are a key point of contact for power station maintenance and operations workers. Through the RCC they are able to view, respond and analyze any notifications in the system with the equipment before involving workers on the power station site.

There are still maintenance staff members working on fly-in, fly-out rosters and available on site at each power station daily to understand and escalate any issues or concerns not observable by the RCC. The collaboration between the RCC operators and power station site personnel allows a quick and effective diagnosis of any problems to maintain safe and efficient operation of the remote power stations.

Efficient operating team

“Remote, safe and efficient operations is possible and has many advantages for our business with the RCC,” says Jamie. “The RCC has shown how we successfully operate our Goldfields power system and makes TransAlta a leader in reliable access to power in remote industry operations.”

Having a system operator in a centralized RCC means one point of contact for our customers and operations and maintenance teams. The RCC is an important part of TransAlta’s operations in WA and has significantly improved the efficiency of operating multiple remote power stations.