Industry 4.0 technologies are causing a rapid shift in the global power industry. With the rise of IoT, drones, and digitalisation, it seems almost every day there are changes to the energy sector, but which of these tools will give organisations the biggest bang for the buck? Weighing the cost of adoption and the payoff will be the determining factor for forging ahead.
Shogo Yabe, the Director of Business Development of Sumitomo SHI FW, had this to say about which digital advances he would highlight, which he believes could have the most significant impact on performance optimisation. “Many AI or digital technology already [has] been developed to find and detect the abnormal situation or find abnormal values through DCS or directly through sensor or [a] device [which has] been equipped [for] the equipment or plant.” Through technology, detection performance has been developed. However, Yabe said it is still difficult to appropriately evaluate a detected abnormal value from critical importance and act accordingly to reduce energy disturbances. Currently, human judgement is still needed to act appropriately. “Digital technology is not almighty, but it can be more user-friendly and useful if it is integrated with know-how which can appropriately judge the detected values and such technology development is required” Yes, the technology is intelligent, but humans must use their own intelligence when managing the technology.
Gan Boon Hean, who is the CEO of Leader Energy, shared his take on exciting digital advances on the rise. He said with utilisation of SCADA information and power plant control combined with drone thermal imaging and with the addition of data analytics software; the O&M engineer can efficiently locate potential weakness areas that need further attention. “This will improve the reliability of the power supply, lower the cost of the O&M and eventually hope to bring down the overall cost of electricity,” he said. Solar Power Plants are already adopting these practices, which could be a game-changer. “This has slowly and surely been introduced to the conventional thermal power plants as well, as most of the newer equipment comes with data I/O readily available,” Gan said.
While small energy plants may have the opportunity to pivot to adopt the outlined advances above quickly, how can utility companies best focus on their organisations’ right advances? Within a Bidgely press release published on businesswire.com, it is suggested utility companies begin to harness their data so they can exit the old school way of managing customers and “…instead leverage data as a driver for business decisions. As Abhay Gupta, CEO of Bidgely, commented, ‘there are some utilities that are far more advanced. They’re taking their data and investing in an analytics platform. They’re investing in personalized alerts to the customer. They’re offering customers things that are relevant to them.’”
These kinds of suggestions appear not to be falling on deaf ears, as one example for a utility company can be evidenced in a press release via IBM’s website. It was announced The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) would partner with IBM’s AI solutions to aid management of high-value assets of its electric power plants. Nophol Phun-Ngun, Director of Power Plant Asset Management Division, EGAT, said of the partnership capabilities, “Leveraging IBM’s Enterprise Asset Management has empowered us with visibility into the performance of our critical assets and operations, helping us manage them with efficiency.”
Utilities and IPPs across the region have, on the whole, been measured in their approach to digital solutions and are yet to fully embrace the technologies driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, when compared to others in Europe or North America. But as EGAT shows in adopting AI solutions, major regional players are taking steps to embrace these revolutionary technologies and drive optimisation of their assets. As outlined above, there is not a prescribed one-size-fits-all way of improving the performance of a power plant, the tools are plentiful, and choosing wisely will be crucial for the most effective adoption.
Panel discussion: How Digital Technologies keep Power Generation reliable in times of crisis.
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