Automation Software Case Study: Movicon Helps Italian Freight Center

The Bologna, Italy freight center, one of the most important in the country, has invested in renewable energy production using a massive solar panel system. Designed with a Movicon supervision system that provides real-time control, monitoring and productivity analysis, the Bologna facility has optimized investment returns.

The Bologna freight center is part of a larger Bologna area business district which was created in the 1970’s. The development was a joint venture between local government and private companies. Infrastructure projects included a regional airport, a food center, warehouses, exhibition center and conference centers. After 40 years in operation, the facility continues to be a strong business generator for the region attracting both national and international companies.

Logistics and Energy Infrastructure

In 2006, the Bologna freight center started researching ways to produce low cost energy from renewable sources with low pollution emissions. Part of that process involved evaluated the potential for a very large multi-site solar panel system. After reviewing several options, the decision was made to implement a $6.5 million solar panel system to provide power to warehouses and other buildings.

Today, the solar panel network includes 18,300 individual solar panels mounted atop 9 freight center warehouses with a combined 4.3 million square feet of roof space. In addition to the solar panels, the system includes 17 support racks, 17 routers, 7 power converters and a dedicated server.

Through 2012, the system has produced more than 4.52 GWh of electrical power. Due to the success of this system, an additional 86,000 square feet of freight center rooftop space is currently being outfitted with solar panels.

Main supervision screen showing the Bologna Freight Center solar panel system based on the Movicon 11 SCADA technology.

The Control System

The solar panel network was developed by Rebernig Supervisoni Srl an Italian solar energy engineering company. The goal from the beginning was to create a state-of- the-art solar facility that would provide maximum user control and low cost energy. To reach these goals, the network was designed with a Movicon 11 SCADA distributed supervision and control system which gathers, displays and historically logs process data derived from the solar panels.

With this system, many parameters are monitored:

  • The electric current generated from over 900 solar panel strings
  • Operating and functional status of the 200 inverters
  • The amount of energy produced by each solar panel
  • Data from temperature and radiation sensors

The distributed control system includes monitoring stations located along the warehouse rooftops for gathering and processing data. The supervision and data logging system resides in a centralized server for viewing the functional status of the system and for analyzing historical data.

The 17 industrial routers installed in the network are connected to the main server through a 3G wireless connection. Communication with the solar the Ethernet and serial bus.

Data that is collected by the solar monitoring stations flows to the supervisory system built with a server from the Movicon 11 SCADA/HMI software platform and the MySQL database.

The industrial routers have been configured for gathering data by implementing protocol conversions (i.e. proprietary protocols such as those for solar inverters are converted to the TCP/IP Modbus standard protocols.) Another important function of the Movicon system is to process collected production data in real-time from sensors so staff can respond to current weather and environmental conditions for optimal solar panel performance.

The Movicon system includes intuitive user interfaces which provide total system control and monitoring. Staff can make adjustments using the user interface to optimize the performance of the various systems and/or promptly handle critical situations such as inverter malfunctioning, damaged string box fuses or substation disconnections.

The most essential process data can be managed in real time through graphical display screens. These screens are equipped with various smart graphics to display real-time information and for displaying recorded data so operators can perform historical and statistical analysis. This architecture was made possible by using an all-in-one supervision system capable of synthesizing – with a zero margin for error – data derived from heterogeneous systems.

Movicon 11 Trends software allows users at the Bologna freight center to analyze historical data on individual solar panel performance.

The Movicon web client technology is extremely efficient and easy to use and utilizes specially designed web architecture that does not need pre-configuring.

All operating data is displayable through web interfacing so staff can review and analyze data remotely. Access to the system is protected by log-in using password and user name with assigned privileges based on job responsibility.

In the Final Analysis

The results of the collaboration between Rebernig and Movicon have been impressive with the Bologna freight center solar network providing low cost renewable energy and very easy operation. Adding to the overall success of the project was the fact that it was completed on time and on budget.

As they say in Italian – Fantastico.

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