IoT Facilitating Power Generation for Energy Sector
Electricity has become one of the fundamental requirements.With an ever-growing human population, the demand for energy is reaching new heights. In 2018 alone, the world wide energy consumption soared by 2.3%, its highest in the past 10 years. Thus, a need for smart power generation solutions has emerged that can fulfill the current energy requirements.
Development in current disruptive technologies is helping energy companies to enhance their power production, transmission, distribution, and consumption practices. IoT is one such technology that is helping energy companies to develop an efficient power generation and distribution system. The advantages it offers in terms of monitoring, automation, and efficiency improvement are simply unprecedented.
Implementation of IoT in the energy sector is resulting in the development of complex energy-generating infrastructures (both renewable and non-renewable). As it incorporates the use of edge devices and cloud computing, the energy companies can now monitor and manage change in energy prices, carbon emission, and operation cost.
Several use cases for energy management and production have appeared due to the shift of IoT towards more industrial applications. Let us explore areas where IoT is leaving an impression on power generation companies:
1) Equipment monitoring and maintenance
Energy producing companies run on conventional machinery and equipment. Before technological advancements gathering data from these machines required manual workforce which was then replaced by SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition).
However, the SCADA system only focuses on data monitoring and controlling in the premises itself. It lacks the generation of accurate real-time readings and real-time actionable insights. A more interoperable system was required by energy generating companies that can share data to distant locations and analyze it to make informed decisions. Enters IoT.
By utilizing real-time data and software algorithms, IoT platforms helps utilities in analyzing the gathered data to improve equipment productivity and directly impact the top line of the industry. IoT implements flexibility in driving data from legacy and proprietary systems and runs it through different analytics tools to find points of failure before they even occur.
Sensors connected on the equipment, tracks and measures different parameters associated with its working like vibration, temperature, and power state (via Current Transformer sensors). This data is then run through different analytics and algorithms to generate consumption, weather, and occupancy patterns. The measured data can then be used to plan maintenance tasks that in turn reduces downtime and financial consequences linked with it.
2) Automated energy management processes
Real-time data gathered from sensors embedded on the entire power generation and distribution system can be used to predict its quality and overall state. This data is tabulated or converted in the graphical representations for quick visualization. This information mainly constitutes insights and significant statistics about the performance of machineries and transmission lines. Moreover, the real-time energy monitoring alert system can also alarm the energy distributors about the sudden change in power load or breakdown of transmission wires. This information and signals are very vital for the authorities to take necessary preventive/ maintenance steps.
Even though this data can be used to immediately locate areas of improvement, a lot of time is wasted before necessary steps are taken. Accurate real-time readings are of no use if there are zero real-time actions. Energy producing companies face a considerable amount of financial loss after a long power outbreak. On the spot actions can help companies to minimize their losses and help reduce the effects of power failure.
Automated energy management processes assist power grids to take forthwith steps to handle a breakdown or conduct fine-tuning for various plant operations. Smart actuators can automatically make adjustments based on the actions recommended by the AI and ML algorithms. The real-time data processed through these algorithms can also be used to optimize different operations based on various external and working conditions. These automated processes, not only reduce operational costs but also improves equipment reliability, agility, and responsiveness.
3) Management of renewable energy resources
Power generation companies mostly rely on non-renewable energy resources. However, they pose several environmental problems and are expected to run out completely within the next 200 years. Renewable energy resources are a good alternative for energy production, but they can only be used in particular situations. For example, solar power stations can only generate electricity on a sunny day. Energy generation through renewable resources is thus fuzzy and inconsistent.
IoT powered smart grids and distribution centers are a solution to solve this inconsistency. Power distribution stations can combine the energy generated through both renewable and traditional means and manage it according to load distribution.
Information gathered from smart meters is used to calculate total power consumption and to predict the demand for electricity. During peak times, when more power is required to be distributed, combined electricity (produced from both renewable and no-renewable means) can be supplied. On the contrary, during the slump period when the load on grids is low, electricity from power plants can be halted to reduce carbon emission from non-renewable power plants.
The extra generated energy can also be stored for further use during peak demand periods. Moreover, the output and uptime of renewable resources can be maximized based on the production values and overall health monitored through IoT solutions.
Internet of Things offers exemplary advantages like decentralization and distant monitoring to energy generating companies. They can use the gathered data to modify and revamp their production and maintenance practices. By running this data through a streamlined channel the companies can leverage the acquired performance insights to enhance their power plant efficiency and reduce waste.
For example, a thermal power plant can optimize its fuel combustion by adjusting the processes to automatically regulate the oxygen flow in a furnace. This boosts the overall plant efficiency and considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The high-volume data accumulated through IoT sensors when processed through AI and ML provide comprehensive insights on predictive asset management and waste control that results in increased production time and efficiency.
IoT offers automation and predictive analytics that allows a power generating company to easily locate areas of improvements. With more development in this field, the companies will be able to utilize the data gathered through IoT in an efficient way to develop better energy generation systems and equipment.
Sanjeev Verma is the founder of Biz4Intellia, one of the leading IoT development companies in the United States. He is extremely passionate about the Internet of Things and explores the possibilities unleashed by the IoT on a constant basis. At Biz4Intellia, Sanjeev’s concrete focus is on building a rapid growing, market-driven organization that delivers influential IoT business solutions.
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