The key to electricity sector 4.0: the digital twin

In the industry, digital twins refer to the mapping of physical asset models on a digital platform, where a virtual replica of any physical object or process is created.

The modeling in is created using information from massive amounts of design, manufacturing, inspection, repair, sensor, and operational data and is constantly updated with asset data.

The evolution of the industry towards 4.0 implies a transition towards efficient energy sources and an intelligent management system for these. That is why digital twins are a key piece in industries such as electricity, since they allow controlling all energy resources distributed in the network and have the appropriate software to analyse and visualise all data.

The digital twin in the energy sector

The digital twin enables smarter management of the sector’s energy resources. With this technology, electrical operators manipulate the conditions of digital assets for scenario planning without interfering with the operation of the physical asset.

In addition, it allows understanding and modelling the performance of, for example, a power plant by representing its state, operation or position, almost in real time. It is therefore very beneficial for utility companies when planning actions for the future with a large amount of distributed energy resources, such as solar panels, on the grid.

Benefits for the energy sector

Digital twins can be used to replicate the physical and operational characteristics of a power generation plant or other utility asset prior to construction and also to help improve operations and maintenance over the useful life of physical installation.

Some of the key goals of the digital twin are cost savings, increased revenue, reduced outages, improved operations, and managing market dynamics. We now delve into the following specific benefits for the electricity sector.

Helps to accurately understand energy demand

A digital twin comprises a “real space”, a “virtual space” and a data flow link “between them that allows us to experiment safely and perform a comprehensive analysis of the information.

Connecting and understanding the information that enters and leaves the processes allows to carry out simulations and scenarios of energy consumption with great precision and to adapt the electricity supply to them.

Analysis and reduction of implementation costs

With digital twins, it is possible to massively manage very complex industrial processes that require a strict integration architecture and industrial automation to be efficient.

They are able to guide utilities and help them make informed decisions on how to improve the uptime of assets and the optimal way to organise them to make processes profitable and save costs.

Decision-making for optimal energy storage

This technology makes it possible to establish an optimal strategy for daily or hourly operation based on the weather forecast or the price of electricity, and to predict maintenance operations when the efficiency level falls below a certain value.

Make asset life estimates, detect behavioral anomalies, and calculate thermal efficiency to ensure that operations and maintenance processes are optimised throughout the power plant.

Intelligent and integrated network management

The digital twin is a new form of intelligent management that makes networks infinitely more data-oriented, forward-looking and with a global vision of the environment that surrounds them, which makes them more sophisticated and dynamic.

Implementing a digital twins system will allow companies to take advantage of close to 99% of the availability of their power plants, increasing their value considerably.

The importance of interoperability

A digital twin must go hand in hand with Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. In this framework, an environment of real objects (equipped with sensors and software) and other technologies is created with the aim of exchanging data through the Internet, which can then be processed by this technology.

But one of the limitations of this technology is that it can be difficult to implement, due to a lack of open source software and interoperability issues. Platforms such as Nexus Integra use open source technologies to integrate different technologies without limits and open the doors to the implementation of digital twins in your electricity company.

Implement your digital twin with Nexus Integra

The digital twin can evaluate and simulate systems to improve their design and performance. In fact, reports such as KPMG’s ‘Beyond the hype of i4.0’ clearly identify this technology as a key tool to achieve Industry 4.0.

To achieve this, a company must start by centralising the assets it already owns and placing them in a position that can be shared, and moving from there. The ingestion and structuring of real-time and historical data offered by the Nexus Integra platform allows the implantation of reliable Digital Twins that facilitate control, simulation and efficiency in maintenance tasks for plant extensions.

Contact us for advice on how to achieve a global operating environment with digital twinning technology.

 

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