In 2011, record-breaking winter snowfall and spring rains created a treacherous combination that saw the greatest volume of runoff in the Missouri River since record keeping started 1898. The unexpectedly high volumes of water along with dwindling storage capacity in the dams prompted the release of hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of water per second in order to prevent catastrophic dam failures. The ensuing runoff led to flooding along the river from Montana to Missouri and more than $2 billion USD in damages to farms, homes, businesses and cities.
While disastrous events like the Missouri flood are not common, they highlight the importance of environmental monitoring including river and dam level management. Bentek Systems, an ORBCOMM solution provider, recently worked with an independent power producer to implement an automated real-time level measurement system for a power project.
Since the monitoring stations were to be located in areas with limited or no cellular coverage, Bentek decided to implement a solution that consisted of 4-20 mA water level sensors connected to a SkyWave IDP satellite terminal. Level readings are sent from the monitoring sites hourly to Bentek’s SCADA server for analysis and either desktop of smartphone viewing.
In addition to the use of M2M communication devices for remote logging and monitoring, what made this solution unique was the use of a very small solar panel to power both the sensors and the communication device. This made the solution a complete and cost-effective package that could be easily installed just about anywhere.
For the engineering company, the installation of an automated remote monitoring station eliminated the need to have personnel drive to various points to check water levels. It provided real-time data for real-time action.
Looking ahead, Ben Yee, President at Bentek Systems, sees a shift in options available to organizations looking to install remote environmental monitoring stations. Customers have a greater choice of sensors and can measure, monitor and control so much than they could before. He is also seeing a shift towards satellite and dual-mode cellular-satellite for ‘fixed asset’ monitoring and control as these solutions are becoming more cost effective and easy to use. Dual mode communications allows customers to primarily use cellular communication but have satellite M2M as a backup in critical applications.
What trends do you see in environmental monitoring? Tell us what you think…