Utility chooses MIMO for water SCADA upgrade
With a service area encompassing four counties and offering a mix of terrain from foothills to the coast, Talquin Electric Cooperative provides power, water and wastewater services to its customer base in the Florida panhandle. But as Talquin’s old water and wastewater SCADA communications system neared end of life, it became a priority to replace the system with upgraded communications to bring stronger resilience to the utility, which it did with the assistance of Mimomax.
Talquin’s legacy water and wastewater SCADA communications system was built around a centralised master repeater which served the whole territory. As explained by Nathan Sutfin, Network Manager at Talquin, “This repeater was a high-power VHF system with lower throughput built on a legacy centralised model. Another major risk was that we had challenges in acquiring replacement parts for the legacy system — this additional factor meant we had to move quickly.”
While Talquin’s water sites are positioned up high, the wastewater sites are typically situated in low-lying locations, including ravines and holes, which make RF connectivity difficult. “Traditionally, the legacy sites weren’t built with robust communications in mind, so we had some interesting RF challenges to overcome,” Sutfin said.
Furthermore, the service territory is prone to strong winds so the wind loading of antennas was a factor for consideration. Operating temperatures were also an important factor as in many parts of Florida there are extreme temperature swings from one day to the next.
With a bi-directional flow of data constantly measuring aspects such as pump activity, water levels and flow, near real-time network visibility was also imperative.
Talquin had some clear requirements for the replacement water SCADA communications system — decentralisation, low latency and high resiliency.
“We knew we had to limit the risk inherent in a centralised model,” Sutfin said. “With the Mimomax system, we built sectorised deployments across our territory in order to increase coverage and visibility to all of our sites. This approach helped to minimise the risk of losing the entire system due to a single repeater station going offline.”
The system designed with Mimomax Tornado radios comprised multiple tri-sector base radio sites with remote radios connecting to these sectors. Incorporating both MIMO and full duplex communications, the system was able to provide a higher data throughput than the original system, combined with ultralow latency for near real-time visibility.
“We piloted a few different systems but the choice to select Mimomax was based on a few factors — the extreme receiver sensitivities, which allows for data recovery in noisy environments via MIMO; the ability of the radio to seamlessly pass our underlay traffic; and the availability to support a direct IO for future use cases,” Sutfin said. “We needed radios that offered relatively low latency, high resiliency and could withstand harsh environments.”
With over half the radios installed, the additional coverage provided by the Mimomax system has meant that sites that traditionally did not have SCADA connectivity may also be able to be connected, boosting Talquin’s network visibility.
“In terms of throughput, the performance of the new system is amazing,” Sutfin said. “From an RF perspective, the results have been good even though we are using the 400 MHz band, which is popular for LMR and pagers.
“Occasionally we may see interference; however, the radios have the ability to provide us with detailed stats so we can determine the nature of the interference and work quickly towards a resolution.”
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