Renewable Energy Meets Conceptual Design
Have you ever wondered what a solar power plant looks like?
Well, we got to see one in action and it is quite impressive! There are multiple fields of thousands of mirrors and all of the mirrors in each field are directed to reflect the sun’s light at a single point (called a ‘boiler’) to harness the heat and literally boil the water inside. The steam that is created is sent to the turbine where the electricity is generated.
Limina was asked by eSolar to help redesign the application they use to control the mirrors – essentially, controlling the amount of heat that is directed to the boiler.
eSolar designs and develops Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) projects that start at 46MW and are scalable to any size. Limina worked with eSolar to develop a sophisticated conceptual design for their solar power plant control system. Limina used in-person interviews to inform the requirements from a workflow perspective and met with members of the eSolar engineering team to understand the technical parameters of the design. The output was a set of detailed designs that effectively incorporated user and technical requirements – providing an engaging, intuitive, and interactive user experience.
The on-site interviews allowed us to see the users in action and design a concept that gave them the visibility they needed at the various levels of detail – from plant to field to heliostat (individual mirror). Our observations also helped us to understand the hierarchy of information, from most important to least, which allowed us to create effective dashboard designs. The software will be displayed on multiple monitors, and the Limina team designed the application to make full use the available screen real estate.
This was an exciting project for us, and it reinforced the importance of collecting first-hand data from actual users in a real setting as an input to any design process.
- Fast concept iterations helps to avoid unnecessary detailed design. We designed 8-10 concepts in one day and narrowed them down to two during our end of day meeting with the client team.
- Frequent communication with client team. We were able to get feedback early and often from our client that helped the design progress much more quickly.
- Users need to be aware of the plant status at a glance – situational awareness is key.
- Using flags and alerts is more effective than displaying raw data. It allows the user to focus on problem areas and drill into individual issues. They don’t have to spend their time scanning the data looking for problems.
- Tailored information displays will give operators an opportunity to build expertise in systemic trends across the power plant – allowing the user to head off potential issues before they become flagged as problems.
“The deliverable and the process was well above and beyond what I personally expected, and the work output will be (I foresee) extremely useful in our development of our software….It’s snazzy, it’s professional, it follows the operator workflow (which is important), and it makes operation clear and easy. Thank you!”- Matt Hartshorn (eSolar Development Engineer)
Tags: energy management