Telecom sites such as repeater towers, fiber huts, microwave towers, and power substations rely heavily on uninterrupted power supply for their operations. As these are often situated in remote areas, it's essential to have backup power generators that can kick in during power outages. To ensure these backup generators are always ready to operate, regular monitoring is crucial.
This guide will explore how to monitor backup power generators, commonly powered by propane/LPG or diesel. We'll discuss both traditional sensors that output 0-5 VDC or 4-20 mA and modern protocols like MODBUS via RS-485.
NOTE: While some devices report to the cloud and use apps for monitoring, we'll focus more on methods suitable for security-focused organizations preferring on-premises equipment and closed networks.
Before we dive into the monitoring process, let's familiarize ourselves with some basic terms:
Install fuel level sensors in the fuel tanks of the generators to monitor the fuel level continuously. These sensors can be analog type, providing an output of 0-5 VDC or 4-20 mA corresponding to the fuel level. Make sure the sensors are properly calibrated according to the size and shape of the fuel tank.
These sensors monitor the generator's operation status. They can detect if the generator is running, idle, or in fault condition. The sensors can be connected to the generator's control panel and will provide an output signal indicating the generator's status. I've even go so far as to strap a D-Wire (DPS in-house sensor brand) vibration sensor
Temperature and pressure sensors are crucial to monitor the operating condition of the generator. Overheating or pressure buildup can cause severe damage to the generator. These sensors are usually installed on the generator's engine and cooling system.
These sensors are installed on the generator's starting battery. They monitor the battery voltage to ensure that the battery is in good condition and ready to start the generator when required.
After setting up the sensors, the next step is to collect the data they provide. Here, the use of a SCADA system or a similar data acquisition system can be beneficial. The data acquisition system will collect the output signals from the sensors and convert them into meaningful data.
To securely connect the sensors to the SCADA system or data logger, you can use the RS-485 communication standard with MODBUS protocol. It allows reliable and secure data transmission over long distances, suitable for remote locations.
You'll then most likely want to route data back across your network to some kind of central collection server. It's possible to manage your data logger directly via web interface, but the total storage space can be limiting. When you get beyond 10 remote sites, it's also unwieldy to connect to 10 different web interfaces individually.
A protocol like SNMP is commonly used in this layer of your data collection hierarchy. This is a network management protocol that allows you to collect configuration information, like the IP address of your data acquisition device. You can then use this information in combination with SNMP traps to send alerts when certain conditions are met.
Interpreting data in real-time is crucial for effective generator monitoring. A good monitoring system should have the capability to interpret the data and provide meaningful insights. For example:
Routine maintenance checks should also be incorporated into the monitoring plan. Regular servicing, including oil and filter changes, are essential for the generator's longevity and reliability. Sensors can give you clues here, but a generator is still an engine that needs recurring human visits at some minimum frequency. Any irregularities noticed during monitoring should be promptly addressed to prevent any unexpected shutdowns or failures.
Establish emergency procedures if abnormal operating conditions are detected. This may involve shutting down the generator, dispatching maintenance teams, or switching to a secondary backup power source.
Monitoring backup power generators at remote telecom sites is an essential task to ensure uninterrupted operations. Using traditional or modern sensor technologies in combination with a secure, reliable communication protocol such as MODBUS over RS-485, organizations can maintain effective, real-time monitoring of their generator systems, ensuring they are ready to step in when power outages occur.
DPS is always standing by to have a conversation with you. We do this kind of thing all the time, so we're ready to help. We've helped our clients prepare for hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and miscellaneous power failures.
Contact us for assistance finding the right solution and getting started with your backup power generator monitoring system. We'll make sure you stay up and running - no matter what the world throws at your remote facilities.
Call DPS at 1-800-693-0351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You need to see DPS gear in action. Get a live demo with our engineers.
Have a specific question? Ask our team of expert engineers and get a specific answer!
Sign up for the next DPS Factory Training!
Whether you're new to our equipment or you've used it for years, DPS factory training is the best way to get more from your monitoring.Reserve Your Seat Today