Located about 50 miles south of Bethel (population 6,000) and 50 miles north of the Bering Sea (which warms to 34 degrees in the heat of summer), Tuntutuliak is a tundra village of about 400 Yup'ik Eskimos. Most residents survive from subsistence hunting, fishing and berry-picking. There is one school, two churches and three stores and about 80 houses. As you arrived you probably noticed; this little community is almost surrounded by water. There are no roads, but there is a 10 foot wide boardwalk connection all the buildings.
In this rugged land of subzero chills and eternal winter darkness, the residents of Tuntutuliak place a high value on their electrical service. And, here in lies a story worth telling.
Nearly 4,000 miles away, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, sits the home of Windwatcher Systems, a manufacturer of wind turbine controls. In recent times, alternative energy, wind farms and tall towers seem to be gaining center stage in national discussions. But, Windwatcher is different.
Tom Ellis, Windwatcher Systems President, has created a solution for turbine controls located in remote power systems. According to Ellis, “These remote villages have traditionally used diesel generators to produce their power. And, with the combination of the rising price of diesel and high transportation costs, this power runs about $0.65 per kWh. The cost to the village is more than just high, it's astronomical.”
Extreme weather conditions and long travels
Tom’s organization produces a control system that not only matches the output of the wind turbine with the diesel generator, it controls factors not found in your typical wind farm application. “In the artic, the temperatures can drop to 30 and even 40 below zero. At those extremes in temperature, air is much denser than in normal situations. Because of this phenomenon turbines can over produce. With this factor in mind, the Windwatcher control system was designed to be scaled for these conditions.”, again per Mr. Ellis.
Here’s the crux of the story. Windwatcher Systems must have the ability to remotely monitor their systems in the field. Here’s what Ellis says about this requirement, “It takes over 26 hours to travel to these remote locations, when travel is even possible. We leave Colorado Springs early in the morning, fly to Seattle, take a plane to Anchorage, grab a commuter flight to Bethel, Alaska and then, if the weather cooperates, go the rest of journey via some Bush Pilot. In at least one instance, we found ourselves stranded and traveled over 100 miles via snow mobile. Not good.”
eWON - reliable remote system
After searching the market for a reliable remote system to monitor and tweak their control systems, Windwatcher discovered the eWON device. Here are their words, “We looked into a number of systems for monitoring but we knew that we had come on something much different as we made some final tests. Our system was being assembled in a panel shop about 100 miles away and we decided to run a test rather than make the drive. We asked the shop to turn on power and we made the connection. The rest fell into place like magic.”
The eWON system allows for remote programming, trouble shooting and monitoring like nothing else on the market. “The eWON system just takes the stress out of shipping our systems to the far corners of the globe. For example, just last week we were able to update and test seven systems in a single day; all from the comfort of our office. Nothing else on the market allows that kind of flexibility.”
Full integration of IT security standards
How does the eWON system work? The eWON system offers a unique method for establishing secure internet connection between the user and the machine with minimal behind the scenes LAN work. eWON has developed Talk2M (talk to machine), a smart Web-based remote access method. The cool point about Talk2M is the full integration of IT security standards.
It enables Internet VPN connection between the user and the remote machine without requiring any changes to IT network security settings at either end. This allows easy deployment while hiding the complexity of the IT network infrastructure. Since connections to the cloud are outbound, firewalls remain intact to protect the network against malware and virus – like Stuxnet.
Collection of data
In addition to these features, eWON also allows collection of data to be resident on their devise. This allows for monitoring even when the device is not online do to network outages. And, because the eWON system operates using Ethernet, other non-control devices can easily piggyback onto the architecture. Just imagine the power of not only control system monitoring but also connection to video streams for a quick “visual inspection” of the environment.The importance of the eWON system came through loud and clear when Windwatcher President Tom Ellis made one final statement.
“Without the eWON device our whole business model comes to a screeching halt. We couldn’t do what we do without the remote monitoring provided by eWON. The eWON products open up a new paradigm where distance, travel, and lack of expertise in the remote villages is no longer a deal breaker. We can improve the quality of life for the residents of remote villages and deliver world class service anywhere on the planet. Simply put, the numbers just don’t add up without eWON.”
Finally, a quick check of the weather indicates the temperature in Tuntutuliak will be -32.