Part 2 – Installation of the Remote Monitoring System


Continuing from part 1 here

It was decided to install the remote monitoring device on one of our existing systems in a school in the town of Kudang. This school was chosen because it was one of our larger systems and it was also known from previous trips to be running fairly close to capacity. This was important as we would be able to gather a large volume of data about the system and also identify potential ways to raise the capacity so that the school could better use the resources present.

The remote monitoring device and its sensors were designed in order to make installation as simple as possible.  Sensors were spaced out in order to measure the current and voltage present at a number of locations around the solar power system in the school. We tried to choose positions which would provide the greatest volume of information about how the school uses its energy. For example we measure the current going to the lighting circuits, the current being drawn by the inverter (which would be used to charge mobile phones) and the voltage over the battery (which would infer level of charge).

The design of our sensors meant that no cables needed to be spliced, and only a small number needed to be rerun. This aspect of the design was very important for the sensors; we wanted them to be as non-invasive as possible so that they could be implemented in the largest number of situations and locations. Furthermore being designed in this way made it very easy to install a large number of sensors in the small length of time we had. Installation in full took two days with roughly one day spent on actually integrating the system with the existing equipment and another day on handling network issues.

Although foreseen as a potential issue, we encountered a number of network problems associated with using a UK Sim card on a foreign network in roaming mode. Unfortunately we were not able to test the system for these problems back in the UK so these issues were a challenge that had to be overcome in the field. Furthermore the cellular network turned out to be unreliable at times, with the network operators regularly dropping our connection, as a result the device had to be reprogramed in the field to compensate for this.

Testing over the course of the next few days verified that data some was being transmitted and received by our servers – a great initial success for us and the technology!

Next post I’ll present some of the initial data and lessons learnt! (see next post here)