Power plant wireless
economics 101 By David Runkle
Evolving wireless landscape key in solution design;
future prooﬁng, ﬂexibility to migrate remain top considerations
16 INTECH DECEMBER 2008 WWW.ISA.ORG
eploying wireless applications has typi- the application that best ﬁts their needs to solve
cally occurred in an ad hoc fashion with unique issues.
a point-to-point solution used to solve Wireless security, especially when interfac-
a speciﬁc issue without any real long-term stra- ing with the plant’s distributed control system
tegic plan. (DCS) has become a regulatory issue since the
Without a roadmap, what will allow these is- onset of NERC Cyber Security standards. This
lands to coexist? Allow for scalability? Allow for technology also forces a convergence of the pro-
system management for security purposes to cess control professional with the information
satisfy IT requirements? technology professional in an area that hereto-
What prevents these systems from interfering fore has had distinct boundaries.
with each other as the number of installed ap- Since a wireless infrastructure usually requires an
plications grow and use a number of differing interface between the corporate local area network
wireless protocols and standards? and the DCS network, system security and data
With the return on investment (ROI) being protection becomes critical, as does the coordina-
a key driver, a user needs to look at the actual tion of a peaceful coexistence of these two worlds.
economic savings using a simple wired versus Finally, the requirement for the management
wireless comparison. There is one example of a of the wireless network for maintenance, intru-
proven installation of many applications within sion detection, software and ﬁrmware upgrades,
one common infrastructure to create an um- real-time system health reporting, and compe-
brella of redundant wireless coverage over the tent technical expertise in this technology be-
entire facility. comes critical to the success of a new technologi-
With this umbrella installation, the user can cal installation.
focus on the widget that solves the business In a new and leading edge technology, the ex-
problem, allowing users to focus on the issues pertise level of existing staff may be insufﬁcient
of interoperability and compatibility with other due to lack of experience.
wireless systems. This can all happen in a man- During the decision-making process of the LCRA
ner that forms a strategic roadmap to “future installation, wireless standards were rapidly evolv-
proof” the entire site for its useful life. ing, and it was anyone’s guess which one would
This is what happened at the Lost Pines Power prevail. At the time, the development of industrial
Park, a Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) wireless standards was still in the early stages with
facility in Texas. It has two unique facilities—an groups like ISA100 and the HART Foundation solic-
aging, conventional, natural gas ﬁred power fa- iting technical papers and proposals.
cility (Sam Gideon Power Plant) and a new com- Furthermore, the e