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How SCADA Improves Railway Electrification

SCADA railway

Recently, Indian Railways, the national railroad carrier of India, made a bold announcement: they would have completely electrified railroads by 2024, and possibly earlier. With over a billion people, in a country largely dependent on railroads for transportation, this is a huge step in reducing carbon output.

India isn't alone, of course. Many nations are switching to electrified railroads, or have always used them as their primary source of power. And in the U.S., there's a growing trend toward moving away from diesel, especially for freight transportation so there's an increased need for overland freight solutions.

If you're responsible for creating and/or maintaining a railway electrification project, you understand the scope of this undertaking. Most importantly, you know that there's a lot that can go wrong. You know that for the project to be successful, you have to monitor every inch of it and make sure the electricity keeps running.

To do this, you'll need a comprehensive SCADA (Supervised Control and Data Acquisition) system. This gives you real-time updates on your entire electrical system and lets you automate immediate solutions to problems.

Freight is crucial to the future of the nation, and more and more, freight will be shipped on electrified railroads. Protect that freight, and your business, with SCADA for railway electrification. With the right partner, it can be done.

The Importance of Railway Electrification to Freight

It's a fact of life and of shipping that every cost comes down to a simple equation: cost of power vs. energy used. If you can get a low cost for power and turn that into efficient use of energy, that's a big win.

Start with the importance of railways over trucks. Railroads move freight anywhere between two and six times more efficiently than trucks, since they are more aerodynamic and because steel on steel is a more efficient transfer of energy than rubber on road.

That energy efficiency scales up dramatically when moving from diesel-powered trains to electric. What percentage of energy is transferred to the wheels?

  • Diesel combustion: 30-35%
  • Electric: 95%

That's right: electrified railroads are nearly three times as efficient as diesel.

Beyond that, there are important implications for lowering carbon usage, pollution, and other environmental impacts. While electricity obviously needs to be generated somewhere, having it generated at a central plant and distributed throughout the line is a much better use of energy than if the train creates its own power.

But none of this efficiency matters if you can't maintain control over your system. And that's where a SCADA system comes in.

SCADA For Railway Electrification

When you install a SCADA system which is easier said than done, you can monitor your whole operation. That's due to the nature of a SCADA system.

A supervisory data acquisition and control system is comprised of the obvious - data acquisition and control. That means you have:

1. Remote telemetry units (RTUs). These RTUs, along with their attached sensors, are the eyes and ears of the operation, gathering data on specific pre-programmed events such as connectivity, wattage, temperature, and more.

When something moves out of what you have determined is an acceptable range (as a broad example: a generator overheats), an alert is sent out.

2. Master stations. These master stations are the brains. They serve as a central location where alerts are displayed allowing you to evaluate and take action. An automated response can be pre-programmed, or you can alert the right people to resolve the situation.

So this, at a basic level, is how SCADA works. You determine what needs to be watched. Some of the main parts will include:

With remote monitoring in your SCADA and railway electrification system, you're able to capture data from any of these to ensure a proper response.

Real-time Monitoring

You might be a local railroad, or have stations across the country. Either way, you need to understand what's happening on your lines, the whole time. Having effective SCADA gives you real-time monitoring, enabling total visibility throughout your entire system.

End-to-End Rail Monitoring Solutions

End-to-end can mean a couple of different things. It could mean from railhead to the end of the line, but it can also mean the complete electrical lifecycle. From the generator to the train, you need an uninterrupted flow of electricity.

By solving problems before they start, you can have that end-to-end protection even for your remote assets.

Information and SCADA Engineering

Information is the life of an engineer, isn't it? And that's what a SCADA system is: a complicated engineering solution to the problem of how to get information. You'll be able to monitor voltage usage, power distribution, traction systems, and everything else.

That's the kind of information that separates success from failure. But how do you make sure that your information is uninterrupted? By working with the right SCADA partner...

Build a Better SCADA System To Improve Your Railway Electrification

As we said before, SCADA can be very complicated. You need all the right tools and equipment, and they need to be set up and programmed correctly. You need components that are durable enough to withstand the elements throughout your far-flung system, and smart enough to do their jobs.

That means working with a team that understands railway electrification. At DPS, we've worked with numerous railways, including BNSF, CN Rail, New York Transit, NJ Transit, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Railroad, and the Alaska Railroad. We've worked with many different conditions, unique stresses, and challenges. But with the right partner, SCADA works.

By undergoing a comprehensive audit of your needs and developing a unique system for your railway, you and your SCADA partner can create comprehensive, end-to-end coverage. With a partner that offers training and support, you'll be able to use your system to its fullest.

Freight is going to be rolling across this country, over long miles on empty nights. It will depend on electricity. And effective electrification depends on you. We're proud to create SCADA systems that improve railway electrification systems that you can rely on.

DPS Telecom has the experience and expertise to help companies monitor what matters most - including their costs. Our technicians can work with you to install remote monitoring systems within your SCADA network with easy-to-use interfaces for more automatic responses. Reach out and get a quote today!

Image courtesy Shutterstock