Digitalisation and data

Stephen Goldspink, director of customer services at Siemens Energy Management, talks about the importance of data and how a new digital transformer will provide real time asset status to network operators.

Digitalisation and data

Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 has created innovations across all sectors. Everything is now digital. The way we bank, watch TV and shop. Moreover, automation in manufacturing techniques has played a huge part in increasing efficiencies in both the manufacturing itself and the quality of the final product for years.

All of this digitalisation means data. Companies know how you shop and what you watch and target ads to you in the hope you’ll shop and watch more.

But much of the existing data is largely untapped. By 2020, 50 billion “things” will be connected to the internet, and every day more than 5.5 million new devices are connected. However, less than 0.5 per cent of the data created last year was analysed or used in any way.

This shows the importance of not just generating big data, but about having usable and valuable data which can be incorporated into an organisation’s strategy development.

For the energy sector, network assets connected to the ‘Internet of Things’ could provide data to help understand how assets work, and importantly aid in designing enhanced services such as predictive maintenance to reduce downtime and grid failures.

Today’s industries depend on reliable, efficient and cost effective power provision. The reliability of the network is something we are lucky with here in the UK – it doesn’t often fail, but with an increasing decentralised energy system, we need to ensure this reliability continues.

In Germany for example, the move from large scale power plants to renewable energy has meant some 1.7 million sources of power feed into the grid today, compared to around 1,000 in the 1990s. And this number is set to increase. Furthermore, it is estimated that by 2030 around 67 per cent of new power installations will come from distributed power sources, placing more stress on the grid, through fluctuating loads.

What if the transformer, usually placed at critical nodes of the grid, became an intelligent data unit, which provided real time asset status data allowing the network operator to manage energy flows to better use the capacity available?

Siemens has developed the world’s first digital transformer, which would do just this. Sensformer is a digitally intelligent transformer, which turns it into an information hub, connected to the Internet of Things to allow for real time analysis.

With an analogue transformer, it is very difficult for network operators to fully understand their assets and it means they are missing vital data, which could help them to begin to optimise network utilisation. A connected transformer would deliver vital facts for grid operators in real time, for example on performance across voltage levels.

Having a more robust asset knowledge could reduce total expenditure in the long term too as potential issues would be visible before they become a costly problem. For example, seeing real-time measurements of oil level, oil temperature, LV winding current, weather conditions and GPS location would allow a more targeted approach to maintenance and a more efficient response if something does go wrong, especially in a remote area.

Sharing data would also positively impact network asset strategy. It would enable grid operators to face challenges like integrating a growing amount of renewables and distributed energy generation into the power grid, while also operating their networks as economically as possible.

Moreover, being able to collect and monitor data for all assets could also help the network operator to tailor future devices more accurately. It might be the case that data shows in certain areas a transformer is too large for its section of the grid and a much smaller and simpler design may be sufficient.

Digitalisation has already delivered innovations across a number of sectors. We believe digitally enabled assets will create an innovation boost, similar to the replacement of the mobile phone with the smart phone – both of which have almost replaced the hardwired landline! The key to these innovations is affordability, ease of use and ease of integration. We see a repeat of this enormous change for the transformer sector.


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