GE unveiled its Digital Power Plant for Steam at the Minds + Machines event in Paris, France in June. The product represents a suite of technologies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficiency ratings at coal-fired facilities.
The Digital Power Plant for Steam software interprets data points from more than 10,000 sensors on coal-fired power generation infrastructure to increase efficiency by up to 1.5 percent, while allowing for 5 percent less unplanned downtime and 3 percent lower CO2 emissions. This technology allows plants to reduce coal consumption by 67,000 tons per year while maintaining the same output capacity. It does this by monitoring and adjusting performance parameters in the plant, including the fuel-air mix in the coal combustion process, among many other variables.
Built on GE’s Predix framework, the Digital Power Plant for Steam shares core functionality with GE’s two previous releases of the Digital Power Plant, debuted last year to optimize wind power and gas/nuclear facilities. The suite of solutions depends on thousands of industrial internet points to leverage big data and balance plant performance in ways not previously possible, GE said.
“An industry that began with Edison and his lightbulb is going through a huge transformation,” said Niloy Sanyal, Chief Marketing Officer for GE Power Digital Solutions. “This is no longer a business in which you can simply generate electrons, transport those electrons, and sell them. Now consumers are producing their own electrons, so the industry and its customers are going through a real disruption. The next generation of power generation solutions will be a combination of physical hardware and software technologies. New hardware will have digital assets embedded within it.”
Included in the Digital Power Plant for Steam suite of technologies is GE’s Asset Performance Management application for Digital Steam Plants, which continuously monitors plant health to enhance performance, reduce downtime, and extend equipment lifetimes by predicting failure events before they occur. “We are now able to predict a failure months in advance based on the metrics we are able to extract using software,” said Sanyal. “This avoids unplanned downtime, but it also helps plant owners plan maintenance schedules around market opportunities, so they’re not repairing equipment in the hottest part of the summer when they could be selling electricity.”
Also included in the Digital Power Plant for Steam are applications designed to optimize operations by enhancing boiler processes, analyzing coal properties, and reducing inefficiencies associated with load changes. Additionally, a “digital twin” of the power plant can be monitored to identify gaps between ideal performance and real-world operational metrics. Business optimization tools also make it possible for plant operators to identify profit opportunities in the market and adjust operation and maintenance activities to capitalize on power demand and other external variables.
Coal plants generate 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and coal is forecasted to remain the world’s second largest source of energy through 2030. It is especially critical in developing economies like China, India, Africa, and the Middle East.
“The world is going to need 50 percent more power in the next 20 years and it will need to be affordable, accessible, reliable and sustainable,” said Steve Bolze, GE Power president & CEO. “In order to meet these needs and achieve the Paris COP21 goals, companies must embrace digital technologies that can enable and accelerate transformation to help decarbonize the world. Together, with our customers, we’re on a journey to realize the true power of leveraging software and analytics to provide comprehensive digital solutions that drive greater efficiencies that are environmentally compatible.”
“Digitizing power plants is not about impacting one plant at a time in a vertical way,” Sanyal said. “It’s about transforming power generation operations horizontally, across broad multi-fuel portfolios. The amount of power generation capacity that currently exists in the world today is huge. If we can get just 1 percent greater efficiency from this installed base, we can save $66 billion annually and make a real difference in society.”