A good service’s success is measured by the reduction in incidents reported

Since its inception, Green Eagle Solutions has placed special emphasis on its 24/7 maintenance and support service for SCADA systems—both its own and those of third-party OEMs. So much so, in fact, that two years ago it moved its maintenance department to Seville. From there, it provides support to its clients and their assets spread throughout Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Ireland, Croatia, Turkey, India and Indonesia. These facilities, with a collective total of over 2.2 GW of installed capacity, include the SCADA systems of various wind energy technology companies, such as Gamesa, Vestas, GE, Enercon, Siemens, Nordex, Made, Ecotecnia and NEG Micon, as well as those of photovoltaic power stations.

Green Eagle’s 24/7 maintenance and support service is one of its most important areas of business. At the head of this department is Andrés Borrallo, a computer engineer who’s going to give us the key to providing the best service possible to operators and maintenance staff at renewable energy facilities.

As of today, the department maintains systems with a total capacity exceeding 2.2 GW. How is it organized in order to comply with the stringent SLAs (service-level agreements) demanded by the sector? 

When we began this service, the first decision was to hire people with very specialized training and extensive experience in third-party SCADA systems, and then to train them internally in our CompactSCADA® technology. At the same time, we’ve developed a methodology to provide highly accurate documentation of all our systems, from the network architecture to each of the services they entail. This allows us to achieve a certain level of excellence in service, and to comply with the SLAs we sign with our clients. 

Green Eagle Solutions maintains both third-party SCADA systems and those that work with its own technology, CompactSCADA®. What’s the greatest challenge that this highly varied portfolio presents? What are the main incidents that you have to deal with? How are they categorized?

First of all, I have to say that for us success is measured by having the lowest possible number of open incidents, because an incident indicates that we’re doing something wrong. That’s why, when we take on a portfolio—including one with third-party SCADA systems—the first thing we do is collect information on each asset that we’re going to maintain. This information allows us to outline the optimal maintenance strategy for each case. 

With regard to categorizing incidents, there are two types: those that depend on us, such as third-party SCADA and CompactSCADA® incidents; and those that depend on third parties and have external causes. For example, issues related to internet connections or devices that don’t allow data to be read, which are the responsibility of the wind farm or power station itself.

According to a brief analysis of the last few months, we have a very low rate of incidents reported each day. Specifically, we have an average of two tickets per day, and an average of 56 tickets reported per month among all of our clients. These are really very low numbers, considering that they include every type of incident, and that we have more than 2,000 MW connected. Of these incidents, those that come from CompactSCADA® are anecdotal, and are resolved very quickly. 

I imagine that your department serves as a kind of thermometer to assess the quality of CompactSCADA® technology, whether it’s being used as a SCADA tool at a facility or as a monitoring platform for a control center. What’s your opinion of this technology? What are its strengths and weaknesses, compared to the other technologies that you maintain?

CompactSCADA® is a very robust technology that has undergone comprehensive testing; before being installed, every module passes through our test lab and then goes to production. This eliminates any risk when it’s implemented for the client. 

One of the greatest advantages of CompactSCADA® technology is that it can be deployed and configured quickly—in less than an hour, we can start reading data from any system and send it to the cloud without a problem. This is very satisfying for us and for the client, who can see how the technology they’ve adopted works within a matter of hours.

Another strength is that it has many operational features. Client feedback is highly positive in terms of its operational flexibility, whether it’s used to start and stop machinery, manage inverters at solar plants, implement power controls, etc.

If you were to ask me what we could improve, I would say that we’re working on perfecting data analysis to generate reports that provide more value to the client when it comes to making decisions. The important thing is that the data is relevant for the facilities’ operational and maintenance strategies. 

One of the most critical issues for O&M managers at wind farms and solar plants is compliance with SLAs. What degree of compliance have you achieved? What kinds of response and resolution times are you working with?

We can truthfully say that compliance is very high, and that’s a decisive factor in clients choosing us. To put it in numbers, in 96.7% of the cases in 2018, our incident resolution met the thresholds defined in the different SLAs signed with clients. It wasn’t possible to resolve the remaining 3.3% of incidents within the limits agreed upon with the clients, because of dependence on a third party.

This level of compliance is due to the fact that we resolve 75% of incidents at first contact, and we provide the first response through 24/7 service 92% of the time. 

Another aspect that favors successful compliance with the SLAs signed with each client is the clear establishment of both the type and priority of each incident reported. To give an example, let’s say two tickets are entered in the system at the same time. One of them has to do with a check or modification of some SCADA configuration, and the other has to do with a wind farm or power station that can’t regulate the consigned power sent from the REE (Red Eléctrica Española), the Spanish TSO. The latter will be given more weight in terms of response, priority and resolution.

The department conducts other important tasks such as service monitoring and generating backups of the systems you maintain. What can a client expect from you in these areas?

We’ve developed a service monitoring tool called Virtual Maintainer, which allows us to monitor all services, databases and, in general, any system related to the SCADA. In this way, a series of preventive maintenance tasks are executed that notably reduce the chances of failure in the SCADA. What’s more, in case it does fail, we have backup copies of the system and a track record of its performance, which facilitate its rapid restoration and recommissioning.

Green Eagle Solutions has various kinds of backup copies. For example, for third-party SCADA systems we have complete virtual copies that can be deployed by any other team. However, CompactSCADA® doesn’t need a complete backup copy—just a copy of the initial configuration and the changes that occur afterward. The client can thus rest assured that in case of failure, whether in the facility’s hardware or software, our team has the tools to guarantee the rapid restoration of the system’s operations.

Now that it’s so in vogue to talk about predictive maintenance in the sector—in your case, at the level of SCADA—do you work in this area?

We’ve been working on the predictive maintenance of SCADAs for a long time with positive results, because we’ve found that we can anticipate errors. Thanks to our procedures, we’ve been able to foresee problems before the client reports them, allowing us to let them know in advance. Every week we analyze all the incidents that have occurred by facility, type and subtype, enabling us to predict possible small failures that could lead to a more serious failure in the system. Our conclusions are transmitted to the production and consulting team, which then relays the relevant recommendations to each client. In practice, this has allowed us to avoid any situation where a machine at a wind farm or solar plant stops working and can’t be restarted, with the consequent loss in production.For this reason, we know that we always have to anticipate the occurrence of any incidents in the systems we maintain.

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