Press release

LPWAN: great potential in heat supply

A Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) makes the Internet of Things (IoT) accessible for municipal utilities and energy suppliers. Remote readout of meters and sensors is just one application of many. ZENNER and partners offer all the IoT technology with applications for this.

More and more heat suppliers are relying on cost-saving remote readout of consumption meters. Walk-by or drive-by solutions have been widely used extensively so far, where service staff can record meter data by walking or driving by without entering the property. This kind of system, such as the wireless m-bus system Opera by ZENNER are very efficient and well-suited if energy suppliers require the consumption figures from the meters one to four times a year for billing. If the meter data is required more than every quarter for different applications and in the event that other equipment and sensors are to be read remotely in the future then the Internet of Things offers substantially more opportunities. This can be used to transfer the data from thousands of objects quickly and in an energy saving manner and across large distances. The prerequisite is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN), a wireless telecommunications network with a long range and low energy consumption.

LPWAN: the technology for big data

An LPWAN is optimised for the transfer of small quantities of data across large distances of up to 15 kilometres. This means, for example, that it is ideal for consumption meters and sensors that can last for years with the power from one battery. The terminal devices communicate with gateways that then send the data packages to a network server. IoT platforms and applications can be connected to the server using interfaces. Depending on which objects are integrated, municipal authorities and municipalities can use the technology for many tasks, for example for remote readout of water, gas and electricity meters, the continuous monitoring of environmental data such as air pollution or water levels, the monitoring of transformer stations, the smart control of street lighting or intelligent parking systems. This means that municipal utilities and municipalities can operate more efficiently and even establish new business models". LPWAN is the technology for big data, smart energy suppliers and the digitalisation of the energy revolution. The necessary infrastructure in countries like France and the Benelux countries is currently being built as a high priority and is also becoming more common in Germany. For the development of smart LPWAN solutions ZENNER is counting on the two communications standards, LoRaWAN and SIGFOX (see information box). The company develops its IoT ready consumption meters in two versions: for use in LoRaWAN and SIGFOX networks. As LoRaWAN is an open standard users also have the opportunity to set up their own LoRaWAN network.

Advantages of periodic reading

LPWAN networks are worthwhile for water suppliers primarily because the meters can be read with them periodically - for example every day or even hour. The Internet of Things thus offers one of the best known advantages of remote reading: It is much faster and more efficient then manual reading on site or the use of data loggers. Travel to the measuring points are also no longer needed as well any appointments with building owners in order to get access to the properties. It is also only rarely necessary to carry out readings at measuring points that are difficult to access and that specialists can only reach with the help of ladders or lifting platforms. On the other hand a lot of meter data can be recorded and used in this way that are relevant for heat suppliers: current consumption values for billing, so-called current values (supply and return temperature, difference between supply and return temperatures, heat performance, flow rate of the heat carrier), meter status and any error messages. Particular on medium-sized and large measuring points the so-called current values give valuable information on the system status and its plausibility. These values can still be used for the graphic and tabular representation of system data in order to recognise consumption profiles and thus potential energy savings and system optimisation. The specialist staff can react quickly to error messages and resolve the error. This ensures systems and safe in operation and correct consumption billing.

Monitoring of district heating transfer stations and block heat and power plants

Technologies like LoRaWAN also make it much easier to monitor transfer stations for district heating and local heat networks such as block heat and power plants. Two factors are relevant for the operator among others: the maximum

values of heat performance in the transfer station and the return temperature from the transfer station. Both can be read easily remotely. Internal data loggers that need to be read on site are thus no longer necessary. The maximum values of heat performance are important in order to compare the contractually agreed connection performance with the actual heat performance. The return temperature is an indicator of the efficiency of the system: It should not exceed a certain value (e.g. 50ºC), so that the cooling and thus the difference between the supply and return temperatures is sufficiently great. The flow rate values (volume flows) of the heat carrier can also be recorded. They show whether the heat meter that is being used is correctly dimensions and thus working within tis regular measuring range.

From end device to application

The examples show the extent to which the heating industry can profit from LPWAN. The digitalisation of the energy revolution is moving forward and is posing a challenge for all market participants. ZENNER has developed its own digitalisation strategy in order to support the utility industry. This includes participation in IoT-specialised companies such as TrackNet, SmartMakers and ZENNER IoT Solutions. Together with this partner network ZENNER is now offering complete IoT solutions with the following components: Meters and sensors, the technical infrastructure for the transfer of data, i.e. networks and gateways, a highly scalable and secure IoT data cloud that is operated in Germany, including big data management, advice when developing individual IoT networks and finally software platforms and applications for the concrete use of the data.

Author: Klaus Gilbert, head of sales and product management for measuring technology in thermal energy, ZENNER International GmbH & Co. KG