Mountains of data are taken each day from a power plant. Organizing, tracking and reporting that data has become an important part of plant operations. As compliance strategies evolve, some plant managers are turning to Internet-based solutions that allow facilities to automate and centrally manage in real-time all aspects of compliance (water, air, waste, health and safety, etc.) from a Web browser, eliminating paper trails and improving facility operations. The following case study involves San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy, and Enviance in their work on the new Palomar Energy Center that came online earlier this year.
Palomar Energy Center is the first new large gas-fired energy center to be built in San Diego in more than 30 years and provides enough power for approximately 360,000 homes. Environmental stewardship has remained a top priority for the facility since the engineering and construction phase. In fact, while this 550-MW combined cycle power plant produces 45 percent more electricity than older facilities that use the same amount of natural gas, it has the lowest carbon monoxide (CO) emissions in Southern California. Palomar Energy Center has NOx limits as low as any plant in California, and to reduce overall emissions the facility uses dry low NOx combustion technology and auxiliary catalyst for NOx and CO reduction.
Because San Diego County imports about 75 percent of its water supply, water conservation is another key aspect of the facility’s environmental protection. The plant is operated on 100 percent recycled water, including cooling and process water, irrigation, and fire protection. Usage of recycled water reduces discharge to the ocean and helps reduce wet weather discharges to the Escondido Creek during the rainy season. All of these measures were taken by SDG&E in order to preserve the environment surrounding the Palomar Energy Center, and to provide a responsible source of energy.
Information System Requirements
Recognizing the complexity and sheer volume of this facility’s compliance requirements, SDG&E knew from early on that Palomar Energy Center’s obligations were beyond anything that could be managed with checklists and spreadsheets. SDG&E wanted more capabilities than typical environmental management information systems (EMIS) offer, and had a number of system requirements. These requirements included on demand internet access, flexible reporting, seamless upgrades, self-administration with permissions and rights for users, and integration with a data historian and an SAP application.
SDG&E selected the Enviance System based on a Software-as-a Service (SaaS) model for managing their requirements. SaaS is a model of software delivery where the software company delivers its application directly to the desktop of the user over the Internet without needing to install additional hardware or software on the user’s side. One of the key differences of SaaS compared to the more familiar Application Service Provider (ASP) approach is that traditionally, the ASP is simply hosting the third-party application on behalf of one client. This type of set up does not provide the speed, flexibility or power of SaaS applications. In addition, because it is not different than software that would have been deployed at the customer’s site, it suffers the same maintenance and overbuilding problems that plagued the software when it was installed at the customer’s location.
SaaS applications in comparison are built for maximum flexibility since they support many companies and users with the same, common software code base. This flexibility enables the customer to 1) increase its type and intensity of use as its needs grow, 2) quickly and inexpensively connect to legacy information systems, 3) reduce the cost of maintenance because upgrades are seamlessly delivered virtually overnight without additional cost. IDC, a leading research analyst organization estimates that by 2010, over half of all new software purchases will be bought through SaaS.
The Enviance System is the market’s only compliance management solution utilizing the SaaS model, meaning it is purchased on a subscription basis depending on what is needed at the time and scaling depending on the fluctuating growth of the operation. The system allows facilities to centrally manage and automate in real-time all aspects of compliance from a Web browser significantly improving facility operations by eliminating paper trails. All facets of data collection, management, storage and security are handled by Enviance off-site.
Using a combination of Web services (a modular software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network) and EIFL (Enviance’s Integrated Framework Library), the Enviance System has been integrated with SAP and PI to capture a complete history of the facility’s compliance data. The integration with multiple systems creates a seamless flow of process data into the Enviance System allowing SDG&E users to monitor, report and analyze compliance data in real-time. Implementation and training on the system were completed in less than 4 months, just in time for the facility to come online. Water technicians and environmental specialists, as well as the maintenance and operations personnel learned how to streamline processes by tracking data in their new, fully automated system.
As an electric generation facility, Palomar Energy Center deals with many regulatory agencies demanding compliance for even more requirements. SDG&E is committed to demonstrating compliance transparency for not only environmental, but all its regulatory obligations. The facility uses Enviance on a daily basis to track tasks and incidents, as well as pull reports and perform internal audits for:
- Land planning and natural resources
- Transportation licenses
- Energy-related requirements for the California Energy Commission, U.S. Department of Energy and California Public Utilities Commission
Because the system has been used since the inception of Palomar Energy Center, SDG&E lowered the risk of lost or missing data. Everything is stored in one central location, and is available to help assure compliance. By streamlining compliance processes, SDG&E reinforced its positive and open relationships with regulatory agencies, maintained its compliance track record, and saved time and money along the way. The organization has the necessary tools to demonstrate compliance transparency, and the system will evolve to meet their compliance needs for the future growth of all generation at SDG&E.