Internet of Things comes to power plants

The Digital Power Plant is aimed to improve efficiency and output of traditional power plants and wind farms.
Published: Tue 12 Jan 2016

Utilities are very much focused on gaining visibility into their networks with sensing and data analytics in order to improve decision making and operations.

While transmission and distribution are arguably the most important areas for monitoring, covering the delivery of power from the point of generation through to the meter, what about within the generation plant itself? Ultimately the generation process is an industrial process and like any industry has the potential for efficiency gains in operations and maintenance and cost savings.

Visibility inside the power plant

The Digital Power Plant is GE’s response to bringing digitalization and the Internet of Things to the power generation process and to provide a similar level of insight that utilities are starting to enjoy on the smart grid.

Comprising sensors and modelling and analytics software powered by GE’s Predix IoT platform, the Digital Power Plant creates a virtual “digital twin” of an entire industrial power plant complex through modelling the present state of every asset in the plant. In this way utilities can monitor and manage every aspect of the power generation ecosystem with real-time control.

“The world is expected to need 50% more power over the next 20 years, including providing electricity for the 1.3 billion people without access today,” commented Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Power & Water. “At the same time, the electricity industry is undergoing a radical digital transformation unlocking whole new opportunities. Imagine the benefits to our global economy and society when the power source of the world's economy, electricity, is as digitally connected and efficient as the modern technologies dependent on that electrical power." 

Digital Power Plant benefits

Despite the move to decentralized generation, central generation of energy will still be around for a long time to come, accounting for up to 95% of the energy mix by 2025.

GE estimates that digitizing central generation could yield value of up to $100 million for new wind farms, up to $230 million for a new combined cycle gas power plant and up to $50 million for an existing combined cycle gas powered plant. Across the whole power industry, this equates to up to $75 billion of impact for new combined cycle gas turbine and wind turbine orders, with additional value for upgrades to existing assets.

Once the power plant is digitized further apps can be deployed on the Predix platform. In addition to improving efficiencies the Digital Power Plant is envisaged to address other key generation challenges including rebalancing the fuel mix with the emergence of additional sources of generation and bridging the knowledge gap left by an ageing workforce.

Digital Power Plant in action

The Digital Power Plant concept is being pioneered by Exelon Generation and PSEG.

Exelon is implementing a Predix-powered suite of enterprise-wide software technologies across three fuel sources – nuclear, gas and wind. With these solutions Exelon expects to enhance its performance, efficiencies and reliability.

PSEG has chosen GE’s software solutions to upgrade multiple gas-powered plants to improve their reliability and operational performance. In addition, PSEG has chosen a 7HA.02 gas turbine for a new combined-cycle plant to replace steam boilers in New Jersey.

The solution is also being implemented in the midstream oil and gas sector by Crestwood to improve asset performance management.