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BlackBox Data Collection System: A Prototype for Efficient Collection of High Resolution, High-Quality Data in Rural Alaska

  • Power Supply
  • Black Box Schematic For Web
  • Black Box Box Photo For Web

Project Need

Data acquisition and data logging equipment are required to better assess power systems in rural Alaska.This data is particularly necessary in distributed generation situations where renewable energy sources were added to the generation mix.  Many smaller powerhouses throughout the state lack the capability to acquire or log high temporal resolution generation and demand data. Remote access to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems is often hampered by low bandwidth and low-reliability in communication connections.  Security concerns can also make it undesirable.

Powerhouse data is required by several key players in the state: the Alaska Energy Authority to make informed funding decisions, the respective utilities to assess system health and to optimize their powerhouses, researchers to improve models which are meant to inform state and utility decision makers, and the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) to further refine the state’s hybrid applications testbed, a full-power (500 kW) laboratory power plant.

The Alaska Center for Energy and Power is developing a stand-alone, robust data acquisition system for long term deployment (>12 months) in rural Alaskan villages.

Project Description

ACEP’s BlackBox prototype is a customized computer built from high quality, off the shelf components. Using components, rather than a miniaturized compact computer, for this development step allows for ease of addition and replacement of parts as the need arises.  

The first step is to build a prototype and develop a general data acquisition framework. Researchers will then develop proof-of-concept work on the interaction of the BlackBox and measurement equipment that tracks power generation and demand. For this work, metering and network equipment in ACEP’s Power Systems Integration Laboratory is used to mimic the BlackBox. Once proof-of-concept is achieved, dedicated equipment will be purchased for the next development phase.

In collaboration with the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC) at UAF a data service will also be developed, to allow stakeholders to browse data and retrieve required data sets.

Once the technology and supporting systems are developed, the BlackBox will be thoroughly tested in ACEP’s Energy Technology Facility. Test scenarios will include long-term operation (>10 days) and recovery from various fault conditions (total loss of power, ‘locked-up’ equipment, metering equipment failure, etc.).

Throughout the testing process, technical staff will receive training in proper installation of the metering equipment in a setting similar to a rural Alaskan powerhouse. Engineering staff with extensive experience working in rural Alaska will facilitate this.

The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative has agreed to work with ACEP in identifying a suitable community to deploy a first BlackBox system. Ideally, the first community will have some internet connectivity, to assess system health remotely. The two most likely candidates are the communities of Chevak and Kasigluk. Both have considerable wind generation capabilities.

Next Steps

Mastering efficient collection of high-resolution, high-quality data is key to developing cutting-edge tools for streamlined distributed generation and demandside management. The experience gathered through the BlackBox development and deployment will aid in designing a system that can calculate optimal generation and distribution system states on the fly. Such an active and intelligent management system should work off the incoming data to calculate a best guess of demand and generation in the short-term future (~5 to 30 min) and adjust system parameters accordingly.

Left photo: Black box AC and DC power supply.  Photos and diagrams courtesy of N. Konefal, ACEP/UAF.
Middle diagram: Current transformers and potential transducers are used to measure current and voltage off the generator bus. The outputs from these sensors are optically isolated to protect the rest of the components. The computer logs the measurements and backs up the data in the NAS drive. There is network access so that the system can be configured and monitored remotely.   Diagram courtesy of J. Vandermeer ACEP/UAF.
Right photo: Data Collection BlackBox. Photo courtesy of M. Frey, ACEP/UAF.