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Monday, September 21, 2015

Remote Locations bring Unique Challenges for Building Automation and Energy Management

  • Remote locations throughout Australia bring unique challenges for building automation and energy management systems

  • Cold Energy Automation designed and implemented a facilities and energy management system for these remote retail locations which includes lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning, energy management, and standby power generation.

  • The energy savings implemented during the projects have shown excellent returns with one store posting a 40% saving in energy costs.

Figure 1: Each location monitors and controls refrigeration, energy consumption, lighting, and standby power generation.


Remote communities face special infrastructure challenges that require innovative solutions, particularly to keep pace with the fast moving energy targets found in metropolitan areas. A need for reliable and efficient infrastructure drives demand for better energy management solutions for indigenous communities in North Queensland, Australia.

To serve these remote communities the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships operates several retail store outlets to provide the local indigenous communities with affordable food, necessities and a wide variety of general merchandise.

The objective of these retail locations is to provide a quality range of food, drinks, and variety products at a fair price, provide industry standard retailing facilities which maximize use of technology, ensure the store layout and ranging is conducive to choosing foods and drinks needed for a healthy life, and promote local employment, training and skills development.

Stores are located in Doomadgee, Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw, Lockhart River, Palm Island and Woorabinda. It’s difficult to overstate how remote these locations can be, and the seasonal challenges they face during the monsoon “wet” season. The vast distance from the nearest available infrastructure means these communities are provided with electrical power from large-scale diesel generators.  

The DATSIP contracted Cold Energy Automation to design and implement a facilities and energy management system for these remote retail locations. Each store has common infrastructure equipment however specific individual solutions were required for each store.  The management system would be responsible for managing lighting, refrigerated storage and display, air conditioning, energy metering, and standby power generation.  Prior to the decision to incorporate a building automation system, these retail outlets had no remote access or automation communications from any device. All systems were managed on-site locally without a SCADA system to automate them. This made it difficult to track energy usage or respond quickly to specific outages.

Figure 2: Panels must be intuitive enough to be operated by local store managers.

The Challenge

The stores are critical to the local community, and are sometimes the only available retail outlet for food and necessities; each presents specific challenges due to the remote locations. To create a facilities and energy management solution for these communities, Cold Energy Automation had to assess the many requirements for these installations.

The remote locations were the first challenge. The system had to offer a robust and reliable SCADA solution in areas that can suffer from power supply fluctuations due to diesel power supply generation. In addition, reliable remote logging, remote access, fault diagnosis, and monitoring capabilities, were a high priority as system failures could result in 10 hour plus transport times for a service technician to visit site. The ability to troubleshoot and configure the applications remotely was a necessity.

The system also had to be capable of interfacing with multiple vendors, multiple interconnected systems, and leave room for further expansion. The SCADA software had to work effectively with the component selection for an effective solution. Sites can have up to 10 different vendor products.

A practical and easy to understand interface was critical for operators on location to prevent complication of technology leading to operational efficiency loss. The monitoring system could be operated by store managers and contractors that varied in local infrastructure system familiarity, so a broad ranging design was required. Cost also had to be considered, as the budget for remote retail outlets is far leaner than the budget for large-scale industrial systems.

Cold Energy Automation chose InduSoft Web Studio as the best solution for this project, due in large part to the flexibility of the SCADA software’s drivers, the economic cost, overall system familiarity and powerful scalability.


The Solution

Each project is tasked with monitoring and controlling lighting, refrigerated storage and display, air conditioning, energy metering, and standby power generation. Cold Energy Automation uses InduSoft Web Studio to manage each of these aspects for the retail locations, the software runs on a control panel mounted industrial touch-screen PC. Each site has its own control panel utilising GSM modem remote access and email alarming.

The InduSoft Web Studio solution uses industry standard drivers to interface with Allen Bradley PLC’s, Danfoss PLC’s, cold room and freezer room thermostats, electronic expansion valve controls, variable frequency drives, stand-by power generators and automatic power transfer systems.  With access to individual device process data and variables the system leverages InduSoft’s scripting, trending and alarming functions to provide time control, logging, protocol conversion, energy management and real time alarm indication.

The system allows basic visual diagnosis of typically complicated system data to assist with fault diagnosis and repair validation at each site; this requires less on time site for service technicians and reduces costly travel to sites. System nuisance tripping is monitored and historical data is used to ensure each process is operating effectively before each monsoon season.

Modbus energy metering logged in Indusoft allows overall energy use effectiveness to be monitored and systems adjusted to improve energy consumption. The energy savings implemented during the projects have shown excellent returns with one store posting a 40% saving.

Operational security was also maintained on the SCADA software utilising e-signatures to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to the application.

Figure 3: The system must interface with multiple vendors for an integrated solution.

The Results

The Cold Energy team designed, installed, commissioned and now monitor and maintain the systems. Since the first installation of the facilities and energy management system, four more have followed. The stand by generation and automatic transfer system was a subsequent addition to the facilities management system in four of the five locations, this validated the flexibility and scalability identified in Indusoft during the design phase.

The energy reduction schemes have been endorsed by results shown in site energy metering and supplier energy metering. The operations and reliability of the system has improved the site in terms of efficiency and ease of operations.

Cold Energy Automation intends to expand further into refrigeration storage, using the techniques they have perfected in these installations.

Figure 4: Returns on this project have shown energy savings of at least 40% in one location.

For more information contact your local distributor or InduSoft directly at info@indusoft.com or 877-INDUSOFT (877-463-8763877-463-8763) or 512-349-0334512-349-0334.

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