Morningstar solar controllers for protecting oil & gas operations and making mining operations safer

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The fossil-fuel industry, particularly oil and gas, depends on the renewable energy industry for many aspects of extraction, production and transportation.  Pumping and mining operations are often far removed from access to the electrical grid, and using generators is often prohibitively expensive and impractical. At the well, renewables are called upon to power injection pumps, lighting equipment, and monitoring devices. Along the pipeline, renewables are often the only means of providing cathodic protection to prevent corrosion and ensure pipeline integrity. Renewable energy provides cost-effective, dependable electricity for mission-critical communications, data acquisition, metering, site security, and much more.

Cathodic protection is primarily used to protect steel structures buried in soil or immersed in water and offers many advantages for corrosion protection. Electronic cathodic protection must maintain constant voltage and current to be effective. Therefore, it is important for these sites to maintain good charging control and communications typically via satellite or other wireless communications.

In mining, many of the same conditions apply. Far removed from grid electricity, mines require on-site electrical generation for critical safety systems and security systems.  Often this electrical demand is on top of the already high power-consumption of an operating mine, which also has to take heavy mining, transportation and ventilation equipment into account. Solar electric-powered lighting towers are increasingly used to provide power generation for dispatch, data networks, data and lighting. For on-site lighting, mining operations often use mobile light trailer towers with high efficiency LED spotlights powered by batteries recharged with solar panels and sometimes a wind turbine-powered generator.

The “heart and brains” of these solar electric systems is its solar controller. The solar controller provides proper battery charging, which will fully charge the batteries during the day while also protecting the battery, often the most expensive component, from overcharging.   By controlling the PV/solar-generated DC electricity flowing from the panels, or modules, into batteries for storage as well as sending on to run connected loads, the controller both manages the delivery and quality of the solar-produced electricity and maintains battery health. These controllers must operate in extreme high or low temperatures.

Morningstar’s SunSaver, ProStar and TriStar families of solar controllers have all been used with off-grid cathodic protection systems. Higher power systems may utilize multiple TriStar or TriStar MPPT controllers in parallel to charge the battery bank. Cathodic protection and lighting load control can include products from other manufacturers to provide constant voltage and/or constant current. These power supplies therefore can include DC-DC load control which may cause high current surges at times. Therefore, it is important to consider carefully whether Morningstar’s load control circuit can handle the type of surge capability for these loads. If the load current capability cannot meet the inrush current requirement for the load, Morningstar offers a Relay Driver to activate higher rated relays for LVD load control.

Communications for these sites to monitor not only the solar controller data but also the equipment data is critical. If the system shuts down, immediate intervention can  prevent losses, downtime and damage. Morningstar offers both serial and Ethernet communications using industry standard MODBUS™ protocol with many different solar controllers including the ProStar and TriStar families as well as the Relay Driver. These systems often include an RTU with a MODBUS™ interface which is controlled and monitored by a central SCADA system. The RTU equipment at these sights will all be powered by the solar controllers which makes it even more critical to maintain power at these remote sites. 

Selected Morningstar components are now also SNMP-compatible (Simple Network Management Protocol), an internet standard protocol that is used to manage and monitor devices on an IP network.  SNMP is used in industrial applications within an existing network infrastructure, as an easy way to gather data from and accurately monitor network equipment assets on site.  SNMP allows for a simple and convenient way to view and modify the status of critical system components on a private Local Area Network (LAN) or across a WAN (Wide Area Network) if so desired. Morningstar’s SNMP-enabled Ethernet MeterBus Converter EMC-1 provides this capability.

Morningstar solar controllers offer unmatched reliability; reducing or even eliminating field-failure and downtime, and the need for difficult and costly replacements  in remote locations.  Because charge controllers handle high voltages they produce heat, which means thermal management is essential to prolonging system life.  

For this reason Morningstar has the industry’s broadest line of fanless charge controllers, including models that meet all US and International requirements for hazardous locations. The superior ‘fanless’ thermal design means no fans to fail, waste electricity, or shorten the life of the controller by blowing in dirt and debris.  Both the SunSaver and SunKeeper charge controllers are approved for hazardous locations, meeting Class 1/Division 2 Groups A-D requirements, and are ideal for use in oil & gas operations.

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