Generators are a core infrastructure component of many communication networks used to provide a redundant means of powering a remote communication site. Asentria SiteBoss units are currently deployed in a variety of locations for monitoring generators. Below are examples of how a SiteBoss unit can be utilized in these different environments.
In North America, operators of large communication networks—such as Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s)—have recently deployed SiteBoss units to monitor and manage large numbers of back-up commercial generators. The initial motivation to deploy units was a direct result of problems arising from large weather events that caused significant damage—even destruction—across wide areas, and the threat they posed to cell carrier network uptime
The primary function of a SiteBoss unit in these communications networks was to give a central network operations center (NOC) the ability to monitor the relative fuel levels of all generators. In a wide-spread weather event, like what occurred in 2011 with Hurricane Irene, commercial power was knocked out over vast areas of the northeastern United States. As power was lost, generators started as expected, but were forced to run beyond their fuel storage capacity. Refueling was difficult and slow, and because the actual fuel level in the generators was not known at the NOC, sites were not visited in the most efficient order. A fuel truck might arrive at a site with ample fuel, while nearby, another cell site might be in need of fuel. A similar wide-spread weather event was unfortunately experienced in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy. The SiteBoss was able to give the NOC better visibility into the crucial backup power of the communication network during these weather-related natural disasters.
MNO’s, during implementation, realized that additional functionality could be utilized within the SiteBoss beyond its original intended purpose: using the output relays on the SiteBoss, it was possible to trigger the start and stop of remote generators. A particularly useful application of this function is to override the monthly scheduled cycling of the diesel generators. Monthly generator “self-tests” become an issue when air quality is poor. Testing large numbers of diesel generators during these conditions is against the United States Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) regulations and could result in fines and other legal complications. The SiteBoss units enabled the NOC to simply choose when to cycle, or not cycle, segments of their diesel generator network based on the relative air quality. This avoided conflict with the EPA, and the associated costs. In addition, the SiteBoss was able to return greater and more accurate diagnostic data on the maintenance cycling of the generator.
With further network adoption of Asentria’s SiteBoss units, another generator application was identified. During periods of crisis, like Hurricane’s Irene and Sandy, MNO’s deploy different types of mobile generators to help extend the life of the network. These mobile generators could be part of a mobile cell site on the back of a truck (COLT or COW), or simply as a mobile generator (GOAT). The mobility of these generators adds additional complexity to the standard monitoring and management issues of a stationary generator. In addition to the NOC wishing to know the fuel level in their mobile generator, they also wanted to monitor where the mobile generator was located. Asentria designed a new compact product particularly suited to monitoring the fuel level and location of mobile commercial generators. The new SiteBoss S350 has both a GPS modem to determine the location of the generator, and a GSM or CDMA(LTE) modem for communicating the location and fuel level to the NOC. Intelligence regarding the location and fuel level of these mobile generators informs the NOC where best to place these resources when a natural disaster presents widespread threat of network outage.
The use of diesel generators to power communication networks presents a different set of issues in developing countries. One of the primary concerns revolves around the theft of fuel from diesel generators. Detecting theft requires monitoring fuel at a high level of accuracy and tracking these levels over time. Utilizing highly accurate fuel sensors and the SiteBoss’s logging feature, users can identify trends indicating that theft is occurring.