RTAC Q&A with Trimark’s Dean Fagan
Dean Fagan, Director of SCADA Integration at Trimark Associates, has over 24 years of experience in planning, implementing, and supporting innovative technology solutions. He has built control and front-end processor (FEP) data communications systems using Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ (SEL) Real-Time Automation Controller (RTAC) devices since 2016.
At Trimark, Mr. Fagan draws on his wide range of skills including control system engineering, IT solution development, process improvement, cyber security, data consolidation, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, system/software compliance, cost control, and more. Fagan is leading the expansion of Trimark’s systems integration team to include SEL-based plant control solutions at power generation and energy storage facilities.
Question: Why are you building an SEL-RTAC team at Trimark?
Dean Fagan: Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) has earned their reputation in the power industry by producing reliable and secure industrial computing systems for almost 40 years. By implementing select functions of our SCADA system on the SEL-RTAC platform, we can serve clients who have standardized on SEL and accept no substitute. Trimark is now able to meet developer requirements for SEL RTACs. We can deploy our proven control logic on the Windows-based SEL-3355 or on the Linux SEL-3555.
Q: Is Trimark moving away from implementing SCADA on other hardware platforms?
DF: Definitely not. Trimark now offers developers the option to deploy Trimark’s proven SCADA solution on SEL hardware. We will continue to offer a choice in ruggedized SCADA servers including Nutanix, Cincoze, DELL and other traditional server platforms.
Q: What sort of energy control systems have you worked with over your career?
DF: I’ve worked with Wind, Solar, and Battery Storage. I’ve built both Generation Control Systems and Substation control systems using SEL-RTAC, Novatech, ABB, and Cooper.
Q: What did you learn in your first job that you still use today?
DF: Training employees is the most powerful tactic for success. People are the only real resource you have as a company.
Q: Tell me about an important lesson learned that you still use today?
DF: Many technologists are eager to say, “We can do this.” But what leaders should ask is “should we do it?”
Q: What kinds of teams have you built previously?
DF: At EDFR, which is a Generation Owner/Operator, I was the Senior Manager of a department of 13 SCADA Engineers who supported 141 Utility level sites. There, our 24/7 NERC CIP Medium Impact Operation Control Center was responsible for generation at these sites. My team, the SCADA Integration Group, provided control system development and support for both EDFR-owned sites and 3rd-party sites which NERC classifies as critical Cyber Assets. All EDFR sites (and several 3rd-party sites that EDFR operated) used SEL-RTAC platforms.
The largest group I built was when I was Worldwide Director of IT for an offshore Marine construction company. We had 60 staff and 14 offices worldwide from Mumbai, China, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore and more. Part of our charter was providing remote support of 47 vessels worldwide.
Q: What is the most complex SEL-RTAC system you’ve ever built?
DF: In Fowler, Indiana, we provided SEL-RTAC systems integration for three separate wind parks with three different OEM manufacturers. We managed over 750 megawatts across the three which made it very complex. We set it up so we could coordinate control at the point of interconnection with the electric grid.
Q: In your opinion how have the SEL-RTAC products changed over the years?
DF: Regulatory needs and requirements have driven the need for control systems with greater capacity and capabilities. By nature that results in more complexity. RTAC devices are in high demand because many generation operators can support those systems afterwards. For example, if they need to edit the system to accommodate a simple regulatory change, many owners have resources to do it.