Digital Simulation as a panacea for the Utilities Industry

In this generation, most of the utilities are under increasing pressure for quality, reliability and security and the equivalent cost of the power that they supply to their valued customers. Real time digital simulators are an intrinsic tool for utilities in this volatile environment. Through these Digital Twins or replicas, utilities’ companies can run simulations of their equipment, and mine data and insights of these simulations. This is one of the white spaces wherein the companies can move beyond predictive maintenance and AI.

MarketsandMarkets™ View Point:

Rajiv Roychaudhuri – Associate Director : Energy and Power, at MarketsandMarkets™, shares his Point of View as mentioned below:

Digital Twins can play a pivotal role in assistive intelligence from artificial intelligence making systems more integrated with optimal efficiencies:

Utilities have used real time digital simulation in the past to good effect typically to study power systems and their operation, the closed-loop testing of new equipment along with the strategic growth of new protection and control schemes.

One trend at the core that weaves all the above developments is security. Security needs to be built and embedded into all systems, products, devices and technology and is an integral part of all connected systems. Security needs to be incorporated in an organisations’ centre and will play a pivotal part of the processes and polices to protect the systems and data harvested.

The new age digital simulator is in tune with the modern electric utility’s requirement, and is capable of multiple range of applications. Critical applications include protection testing via IEC 61850 communication (a standard protocol that facilitates interoperability and communications among Intelligent Electronic Devices (IED) in substations, essential for developments of smart grid or Virtual Heat and Power plants (VHP)), renewable energy integration, the implementation of wide-area measurement schemes using phasor measurement units, exciter control testing and tuning, HVDC and FACTS scheme testing involving modular multi-level converters, operator training, and black start studies, among many others.

Real time digital simulation technology has undergone major advancements over the past twenty years, evolving from an emerging technology to an industry yardstick tool that is used by over 100 electric utilities globally. The modern power system simulation technology surpasses the traditional applications of closed-loop protection and control system testing and is a multi-faceted tool that can be used for studying the integration of smart grid technology, wide area protection and controls, and renewable energy resources and their controls. Considering that the Utility Asset Management market stands at USD 2.75 Billion and expected to grow by 8.25% and touch USD 4.09 Billion in the year 2022, the digital simulation industry is most likely to mirror the asset management market.

Utility Asset Management
Bringing real time changes with digital simulation makes systems more robust, lifelong and integrated

Some of the industry leading examples include that of the China Southern Grid and the New York Power Authority (NYPA). China Southern Grid (CSG) owns and operates the world’s largest real time digital simulator, which is used for representing their AC-DC parallel transmission network. With this simulation technology, CSG is able to represent their entire transmission network above 220kV, including 8 HVDC systems, 1100 three-phase power system buses, 1400 transmission lines, and over 250 generators. The state-of-the-art simulation laboratory of CSG combines simulation hardware and software with numerous sets of HVDC protection and control devices, which can be interfaced with the digital simulator in a closed loop.

Some of the major applications of CSG’s digital simulator are system stability control testing, power grid operation analysis and the dynamic performance testing which involves the thorough testing of new HVDC projects before the technology is dispatched in the network.

Also the new Integrated Smart Operations Center of the NYPA, known as the iSOC, will analyze the performance of NYPA’s power-generation assets and statewide network of transmission lines to identify issues before they occur in an effort to prevent service outages and reduce repair and replacement costs. The new center further builds on the state’s goal to become the first all-digital public power utility in the US. Online monitoring of power plants, sub-stations and power lines will increase plant productivity and efficiency, reduce unplanned downtime, lower maintenance costs and minimize operational risks. The technology at the same time now allows NYPA to make continued progress in meeting the governor’s Clean Energy Standard, that mandates half of all electricity in New York to come from renewable sources and greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 40 percent by 2030.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA), the largest state public power organization, is testing, modeling and developing innovative solutions for energy systems at its research and development facility, the Advanced Grid Innovation Laboratory for Energy (AGILe) at its White Plains, NY headquarters. Along with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the lab simulates the impacts of new technologies before they are deployed on New York’s electric grid, allowing NYPA and other research participants to evaluate their effects on system reliability, performance, and resiliency. It also helps renewable resources to come online more deftly and integrate more effectively to the New York state grid.

“This is part of the industry-wide effort to make wind, solar, storage and customer resources (like flexible loads, batteries and electric vehicle charging) all part of an integrated grid.  We are very excited to coordinate the research at the AGILe lab with the overall integrated grid research at EPRI,” believes Mark McGranaghan, EPRI’s vice president, distribution and energy utilization.

“AGILe will allow research think tanks to more quickly model the system and identify any potential issues – especially as more renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, and energy storage, are brought online” ‘’By using advanced data analysis to monitor all our assets simultaneously, we can continue to provide low-cost and reliable power while making smart and efficient operating decisions in real time.” opines Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO.

As we make rapid strides into a world with  a more complex and sophisticated technological landscape, simulation technology will continue to advance, helping electric utilities achieve reliable and secure operation of the grid of the future. When in fruition, researchers from government, industry, and academia will be able to use advanced computing methods to simulate the implementation of new technologies for better forecasting and planning and at the same time assist with the commercialization of emerging technologies.

There is a marked shift in the Utility landscape with most of the companies moving on to a model of being highly asset intensive to being data and information intensive businesses. This will in turn lead to application of more open data sharing information in the ecosystem and for third parties.

This new avenue of open data will allow to forge alliances in the ecosystem and encourage companies to have a more collaborative approach with seemingly easy comprehension of satellite imagery, build new applications for existing processes and gradually empower them to become more data and insight driven.

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