Those big power plants and high-voltage transmission lines are still part of the equation, but so are community solar power, wind farms, microgrids, battery storage and more. Connecting these technologies to the existing grid — handling settlements in an enclosed market, linking up transactions between energy producers and buyers (perhaps via blockchain technology) — requires a serious IT overhaul.
Energy analytics. The New York State Power Authority (NYPA) is the largest state public power organization in the U.S. It operates 16 generating facilities (including two plants powered by Niagara Falls) and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. NYPA is responsible for 15 to 20 percent of New York State's daily electricity output. The organization has connected its energy-producing machines to analytics software via sensors. The software, running in NYPA's central Smart Operations Center in White Plains, N.Y., provides operations leaders with predictive alerts that accurately forecast possible failures up to weeks before they occur.
NYPA has also opened the Albany, N.Y. -based New York Energy Manager (NYEM) network operations center, which will eventually be bi-directionally connected to 20,000 public buildings throughout the state. That will allow it to send controls to building management systems to actively drive energy savings by lowering heating or cooling requirements during periods of low use (like weekends, evenings, breaks in school schedules, etc.). In the future, it could be tied to building occupancy to match the requirements to the heat load associated with the number of people in a building.
Once the buildings are fully online, NYPA estimates NYEM will save taxpayers more than $100 million annually. Eventually, NYPA hopes to offer the services to its business and industrial customers.
"It will take time for the majority of buildings to be connected bi-directionally," says Ken Lee, senior vice president and CIO of NYPA. "We will start with a significant number, but it will take time to connect a large percentage since many of the buildings have legacy systems which don't have building management systems to connect to. This is a capability which we're actively working to mature."
Performance monitoring. The IoT is also transforming electricity generation outside the U.S. RasGas, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) provider in Qatar, now operates seven LNG trains (an LNG plant's liquefaction and purification facility). With help from GE, RasGas has equipped those trains with sensors that power analytics.
"The trains were identical but weren't performing identically. By monitoring performance with sensors all along the train, we were able to diagnose that the difference came down to some valve settings," says Derek Porter, general manager of Product Management at GE Digital. "That saved them the equivalent of three days of energy production — around $8 million."
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