Case study: Commissioning a solar power plant

Commissioning an integrated security system for solar power plant in Saudi Arabia was successful despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Amit Garsund December 15, 2020

The 340 MW photovoltaic independent power plant (IPP) project is the first utility-scale renewable energy project to be developed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) under the landmark national renewable energy program. The solar farm is expected to generate enough clean energy to power 75,000 households with green power, while offsetting more than 430,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The plant, located in the northern quarters of KSA, covers an area of 6 sq km, which is the equivalent of 1,000 soccer fields. The IPP will harness solar energy by using photovoltaic (PV) technology to generate electricity at a record-breaking tariff, which is second lowest in the region. The project was specified to meet the High Commission of Industrial Security (HCIS) requirements with a Class-3 classification.

Project scope

L&T Electrical & Automation was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the industrial security integrated systems package. The project scope included engineering, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of the following systems:

  • Integrated security system (ISS): Unified software platform for security systems management

  • Closed-circuit TV (CCTV) system: Including a video assessment and surveillance system (VASS/VMS), fixed, dome, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) and thermal cameras, automatic license plate recognition system and poles

  • Electronic access control system (EACS): Including access controllers, card readers, identity management system (IDMS), telephony, sounder/beacons and intercom

  • Physical security system: Including bollards, turnstiles, arm barriers, road blocker, motorized gates and traffic lights (see Figure 1)

  • Personal search system: Including an explosive detector, metal detector, X-Ray detector and walk-through metal detector units

  • Network: Including local area network (LAN) and intercom cabinets, network management system (NMS) and switches

  • IT hardware: video wall and workstations (see Figure 2)

  • Security lighting system: Including uninterruptible power supply (UPS), diesel generator, power boards, lighting fixtures, consoles and remote-control panels.

The security systems had to be integrated into a common environment called the integrated security system (ISS) at the control room. The ISS would have the ability to present security personnel with a single interface and user environment for all installed security systems. This allows security personnel to manage the systems from this environment regardless of the physical system distribution on different platforms.

System architecture

Figure 3 shows a high-level representation of the system architecture. In accordance with the approved philosophy, there are three main servers (all redundant) each for the CCTV system, the access control system and the automatic license plate recognition system. Then, a pair of redundant servers for ISS and a single PC-based server are installed for the intercom and IDMS.

All the field devices were to be configured in their respective servers as well as the ISS. The integration was to be arranged so the data from the field devices would communicate with their respective servers, which would provide the information to the ISS servers. The ISS system will show the information for all the devices in real time on a single platform with the provision to operate the devices.

We installed our indigenously developed Security Management Software viz. iVisionmax-Secure at the ISS. It has been developed to integrate traditional security components such as CCTV, access control, ALPR etc., and also is scaled for advanced security functions such as perimeter intrusion, drone detection and radars.

Implementation challenges during COVID-19

There was a local team assigned onsite for performing the installation and commissioning of different systems and an engineer from our development team would travel to the site in Saudi Arabia for the commissioning and site acceptance test (SAT) process.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic wave swept across the world in March 2020. Travel was not possible, and as a result, the chances of timely execution of the project looked very bleak. This project had several sub-systems and our OEM partners could not travel for the pre-commissioning activities at the project site. Delaying the execution was not feasible as it would have incurred huge losses for the end user.

Coordinated effort to overcome COVID-19 challenges

We installed a demo setup using the project hardware test kits at our Dubai Integration Center and conducted a proof of concept to our customer for approval with an integrated facility acceptance test (FAT).

We acted quickly to extend the site systems using remote connectivity with precautionary safe network measures in place including changing passwords daily and the concerned development engineer would go about commissioning the ISS system remotely by accessing only selected systems in a well-planned manner.

The demo setup in our Dubai office was used to troubleshoot equipment and test integration requirements by simulating the site conditions. Constant feedback was required from the team onsite during testing.

There was the challenge of different time zones as the site was in Saudi Arabia, our development team was distributed between United Arab Emirates and India and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) team was stationed in People’s Republic of China. The teams had to face several administrative and logistics issues at their locations due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. As a result, they planned the daily tasks for the reduced number of operational hours onsite specified by the local authorities.

Successful inspection

The SAT process required remote collaboration and countless conference calls, and video recordings of tests were maintained as part of the SAT report (see Figure 4).

With careful team coordination, along with the support of the end user and after three months of hard work, the site was finally ready for inspection and approval. The inspection was successfully carried out on June 10, 2020, in accordance with High Commission for Industrial Security guidelines and handed over to the end user representatives. Operation training was imparted to the site operators and were made aware of all the features and guided to avoid any mishandling.

As of now, the solar plant is running with all our systems successfully commissioned.

Accepting the new normal

Change is inevitable. We chose to cooperate with it, adapt to it and in the process, learn how to handle it. When we embrace change, we will begin to see it as an opportunity for growth.

There were many challenges from the onset of this project. The COVID-19 pandemic disturbed the entire workflow and process, but the focus was on the end result and we kept an open mind that enabled us to learn new methods of completing the original plan.

Amit Garsund is the head of technology integration group at L&T Electrical & Automation.

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Amit Garsund is the head of technology integration group at L&T Electrical & Automation