The Powerful Benefits of Simplifying Complexity

Nov. 2, 2023
Brett Benson of Emerson explains why today’s energy landscape is steeped in complexity, and how that complexity manifests itself in several ways, including inefficiencies, added costs and delayed decision making.
The devil’s in the details … or so the saying goes. While it may not be true in all circumstances, this adage certainly seems to apply in today’s energy landscape — one in which power producers are expanding their renewable asset portfolios as they strive to meet sustainability targets.

Not so long ago, energy providers relied primarily on traditional fossil fuel plants where equipment was housed under one roof, often with a common automation platform providing insights into numerous processes and equipment. Fast forward to today and renewable energy is typically generated by dozens or even hundreds of geographically dispersed power sources, each equipped with its own original equipment manufacturer (OEM) control and monitoring automation technologies. And, the variety and vintage of controls can quickly multiply as power producers expand their fleet or initiate modernization projects.

This proliferation of disparate controls is problematic for several reasons, but at a high level, it all boils down to one thing: added complexity. This complexity manifests itself in several ways, including inefficiencies, added costs and delayed decision making.

For example, interfaces and dashboards tend to vary by OEM. As such, operators and maintenance personnel must be trained on multiple systems in order to operate these systems as well as troubleshoot and resolve issues when they arise. This is an inefficient use of time, as it pulls personnel away from higher value tasks.

Maintaining multiple systems is costly not only in terms of plant personnel’s time but also in dollars and cents, as it is necessary to have a larger spare-parts inventory on hand.

But perhaps the most troublesome issue is data. Or, more specifically, lack of data.

Different systems typically don’t easily integrate. This limits access to the data that is indispensable for providing a broad view of operations. This is particularly true on the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) or asset-management level, where a unified view of operations is needed to manage a portfolio of renewable generation and energy storage assets efficiently and cost effectively. And the impact around data that is siloed and unavailable can be far worse than mere inconvenience or inefficiency. Operators who do not have full visibility into operations are more likely to miss problems until they escalate. Furthermore, they may find it difficult to isolate and identify recurring issues because they are unable to easily track and trend patterns. This can lead to unplanned downtime and decreased revenue – not to mention unhappy customers.

Solving for simplicity

Fortunately, there are solutions that can simplify the complexity by offering a broad, integrated view of all assets.

Owner-operators should look for asset management and SCADA software that integrates control, monitoring and management of renewable energy assets into a single, unified automation framework. With this common automation platform, the software is able to deliver real-time access to a wealth of data, providing key insights into equipment, asset and fleet performance and capacity for improvement. Beyond uniting a large fleet of renewables under one platform, power producers can also benefit from software that includes features specifically for wind, solar and battery applications:

  • Predefined dashboards and KPIs.
  • Production, availability and General Availability Data System (GADS) reporting.
  • A powerful scripting engine for customized responses to events. 

All of these aid in rapid deployment and better utilization of asset management and SCADA.

Such software solves the challenge of accessing, interpreting and managing large amounts of data received during energy production and storage. With this technology, power producers can optimize operations, minimize inefficiencies in data management and simplify integration between management tools. 

Summary

Today’s energy landscape, already steeped in complexity, will continue to evolve as technologies advance and are adopted even more widely. Fortunately, owners and operators have a path forward that is unobscured by the data silos that have risen from the use of multiple OEM systems. That path forward is smooth, paved with a comprehensive, holistic software providing actionable intelligence that drives faster, more informed decisions to increase availability and reliability while reducing operations and maintenance costs.

To learn about Emerson’s built-for-purpose Ovation™ Green portfolio of renewable asset management and SCADA software solutions, visit: https://www.emerson.com/Ovation-Green

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