Satellite, GSM communications drive efficiency in Namibia's electricity network
NamPower, Namibia's national electricity utility, has slashed the costs of dealing with temporary outages by using GSM and satellite communications to link remote recloses with its head office.
“We had a situation where if there was a power outage in a remote town or farm, a technician would have to drive all the way out to the site just to flip a switch back on,” says project leader Elana Joubert. “During the rainy season when there were a lot of lightning strikes, some of our technicians were sleeping four hours a night. It was a huge drain on our human resources as well as being financially expensive.”
NamPower awarded a contract to Metacom, a South African company that had already developed a nationwide monitoring and control network for Eskom. “We wanted somebody with a lot of experience in dealing with our specific issues,” says Joubert.
Metacom installed remote communications devices throughout NamPower's network, enabling NamPower National Control in Windhoek to monitor and close reclosers remotely when they trip. “If they trip again, we know there's a problem that really does require a technician to go out,” says Joubert. “But most of the time that's the end of the story.”
Metacom's network and devices use a combination of GSM connectivity, where this is available, with satellite communications in the most remote areas. “Through our years of experience with Eskom and other companies in southern Africa, we've been able to develop robust communications devices that can cope with extreme conditions, from intense heat to thunderstorms,” says Metacom Managing Director R'ean van Niekerk. “If this communication wasn't business-critical, utilities wouldn't be doing it, so reliability is crucial.”
NamPower began rolling out Metacom devices and network services in September and plans to have covered the entire country by the end of 2012. “The devices we've installed so far are working perfectly, and Metacom's service has been excellent,” says Joubert. “They respond to calls within half an hour and are always friendly and helpful.”