Unlike other IT giants such as Amazon and Apple, Microsoft seems to have had little ambition in the energy sector in recent years beyond a desire to run its data centres on renewable energies. [Engerati-Big Name Data Centres and Project Could Instigate Change in the EU]
But this may be about to change with a project with the Norwegian utility Agder Energi and IT solution provider Powel. In this pilot, Microsoft is supplying its Azure intelligent cloud and IoT hub and PowerBI business analytics tools. The aim is to provide device controls and predictive forecasting to improve dispatch of new resources on the grid.
“Renewable energy resources and advancements in intelligent cloud technology are driving a digital transformation of grid operations to explore new business models,” says Kevin Dallas, Microsoft Corporate vice president, IoT Business Development. “Enabling solutions like Agder’s will accelerate widespread renewable and distributed power generation."
Agder Energi smart grid
According to a statement the project will leverage intelligent technology to create a cutting-edge smart grid solution that will prepare the grid for greater renewable integration and help keep pace with growing energy consumption. The pilot will demonstrate how utilities can implement intelligent cloud-based smart grid solutions to unlock a host of energy and sustainability benefits.
“At Agder Energi we want to use new technology to make the power grid more efficient, more predictable and more flexible,” says Agder Energi’s CEO Tom Nysted. “We will go from being energy generators to energy partners, with a more active role for our customers. Together with our partners at Microsoft and Powel, we will use innovation to solve the challenges facing the grid.”
Powel is responsible for integration and forecasting, integrating Agder Energi’s SCADA to the Azure IoT Hub and providing demand and wind and solar production forecasts.
The pilot will be operated at an Agder Energi substation that is currently operating at 120% of its capacity a number of times throughout the year. The technology will enable operators to better predict demand and engage distributed resources, thereby reducing the demand on the substation and saving money that would otherwise be needed to upgrade. Eventually, the partners expect to build on these results to perform automatic balancing of renewable energy and peak load control in near real time.
The solution also should have wider application in the Norwegian market where loading challenges on substations are not uncommon.
Cloud solutions in energy
Beyond the Agder Energi project, Microsoft also has become involved in two other new initiatives involving its Azure cloud platform in the energy sector.
In a partnership with ABB the companies will seek to drive digitalization across a range of sectors, including renewable energy and electric vehicles, by integrating Azure with ABB’s industrial solutions. ABB intends to standardize its platform on Azure, utilizing services such as the Azure IoT and Cortana Intelligence suites.
The second initiative is the development of a new predictive policy tool powered by the Azure computing services and machine learning to support legislative advocacy in energy with the business group Advanced Energy Economy (AEE). AEE’s PowerSuite online bill-tracking platform comprises a database of bills pending in the US Congress and the 50 states, and assesses the probability of a bill’s enactment based on the data points known about the bill when it is introduced and collected as it moves through the legislative process.
PowerSuite is claimed to forecast the outcome of state and federal bills with an accuracy of 87% based on information available at the time of bill filing, and up to 99.5% with the changes over the course of a session.
“This new predictive capability is just scratching the surface of what’s possible,” adds Eric Fitz, VP of engineering and product development at AEE. “In addition to legislative forecasts, we can’t wait to apply machine-learning and natural language processing technologies to our database of regulatory data to help make the opaque world of regulatory proceedings more transparent. Stay tuned.”
Engerati's In Focus on Power In Europe provides insights across the value chain in the region's power sector.