First successful upgrade of Anaerobic Digestion Plant to Windows 10

November 2019

RuralTech is celebrating its first successful upgrade of an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Over the last ten years, AD Plants have been built on farms across the UK to process agricultural and industrial organic waste to produce biogas, which is then combusted to generate renewable energy, thus turning a possible disposal cost into farm revenue.

In order for the plants to maintain a fully 24/7 operational status, it is vital that their PCs and other devices are permanently connected to the Internet to allow control, monitoring and technical support.  With just under three months until Microsoft stops providing security updates or support for PCs running Windows 7, Simon Gittins of W.H. Gittins & Sons at Wykey Farm, Shropshire, was keen to upgrade his AD Plant to ensure it remains fully operational and is not exposed to any security risks and viruses.

But as Keith Franklin of RuralTech explains, “You can’t just get a Windows 10 machine, plug it in and off you go!  The successful switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is the culmination of 18 months’ hard work.”  RuralTech joined forces with Paul Owen from Onnytech, responsible for the electrical and mechanical engineering side of the plant, to work on the upgrade.

The FactoryTalk software running the plant had never been tried on Windows 10.  Firstly, Keith had to look at various options for a new business-grade PC based on Windows 10 Pro to run the software.  After months of research and development, a customised Dell OptiPlex PC running 10 Windows Pro latest Version 1903 

with a Core i5 processor and large hard drive was installed in a secure Data Cabinet.  In addition, a business-grade anti-virus software, local and Cloud data backup, plus specialist remote support software was included.

 

Attention then turned to the FactoryTalk software.  Once it was downloaded from the Rockwell website, a considerable amount of time was spent on testing it and getting the configuration to match for both the AD plant and the PC.  The outcome has been a seamless integration.

And finally, the router.  On Keith’s recommendation, Simon Gittins invested in a new business-grade DrayTek 2862 router with the latest firmware in order to maximise broadband connectivity.  It has a bespoke configuration, both for cyber security and to allow remote access for third party support and engine management.  (The benchmark for the standard of security has been based on the configuration for PCI DSS credit card information processing, combined with National Cyber Security Centre – GCHQ – ‘best practice’ and guidance from DrayTek itself).  As cyber security is a dynamic environment and a constant threat to IT infrastructure assets, the configuration is updated continually and under constant review to maintain operational integrity.

Paul Owen, Onnytech, explained “This joint project has been far from straightforward.  It has been a real challenge to find the right version of software to run the AD plant, then to get it to work on Windows 10 and then actually ‘talk’ to the PC!  Success at Wykey Farm is just the start!  We can now look to upgrade other AD plants across the UK.”

Simon Gittins is delighted with the outcome.  “RuralTech has helped safeguard the future of the AD Plant at Wykey Farm” he said.  “Renewable energy is vital for our future and we are now confident that we can continue to generate electricity for years to come.”

The AD Plant at Wykey Farm was commissioned in January 2012 and has an output of 1.9 megawatts.  RuralTech will continue to help the on-farm operating team and third-party technical management to have 24-hour monitoring access by making sure the broadband connectivity, data backup and cyber security are fully supported.

 

For further information on upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10, please contact us.

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