Better Grid Reliability Starts with Analytics

As electrical grids get more complex, so too does the task of keeping them online. Grid operators have long had reliability programs, as they are essential to safe operation, but the most effective plants are updating those programs with modern technologies as they are forced to do more with less in the face of changing global market dynamics.

At the 2023 Ovation Users’ Group conference, Emerson’s Brian Overton shared how edge analytics are playing an increasingly important role in the evolution of power generation reliability programs. The key to success, Brian explained, is to have a reliability program that is not only effective, but also efficient.

Evolving problems

Brian shared that a number of new problems create roadblocks to effective reliability programs. One of those roadblocks—one that comes up in many of the presentations at the conference—is the seemingly ever-present shortage of skilled workers. As power generators expand through acquisitions and greenfield projects, personnel are responsible for more and more assets, but there are fewer of those personnel available with each passing year.

Those issues are further compounded by supply chain problems, where long lead times can make it difficult to procure parts. If an asset runs to failure, those lead times can mean extended, costly outages. And both supply chain shortages and personnel shortages make it difficult to effectively schedule maintenance activities. Outages need precise planning, so surprise maintenance needs that appear during outage windows can be very troublesome.

Moreover, traditional route-based monitoring with a handheld device is time consuming, tying personnel up for days or weeks. And if a problem occurs in between scheduled routes, it can potentially become a failure before anyone ever returns and notices it is happening.

Evolving solutions

As is often the case, digital automation technologies are a critical relief valve for the pressures of managing efficient and effective reliability programs. The most effective teams, Brian shared, are moving toward autonomous operation, replacing traditional walkaround condition monitoring with automated asset monitoring and edge analytics. These teams focus their time on high value tasks. They identify problems early, empowering personnel to better plan maintenance activities and eliminate unexpected failures and their associated collateral damage and downtime.

Today, Brian explained, there are many affordable solutions for continuously collecting data from the field to end maintenance rounds. These solutions are cost effective, easy to install, and continuously send condition monitoring information wirelessly to users wherever they may find themselves—in the control room, in the field, or at another site across the globe.

For simple, effective monitoring, many power generators are turning to the AMS Wireless Vibration Monitor to keep a constant eye on the health of rotating equipment. The AMS Wireless Vibration Monitor is compact, can be installed by a plant’s own technicians, and uses Emerson’s PeakVueTm technology to determine a machine’s condition. When it identifies a developing issue, the device can quantify the nature and severity of the defect. It differentiates between mechanical problems—such as rolling element bearing defects—and root cause issues like insufficient lubrication.

For more advanced, but still highly approachable condition monitoring and analytics, many organizations are turning to Emerson’s unique edge analytics device, AMS Asset Monitor. AMS Asset Monitor uses CHARMs-based technology to collect vibration and process data from balance of plant assets. It is installed right at the source of rotating machinery like fans, motors, gearboxes, and pumps and uses embedded analytics to provide personnel with clear, intuitive asset health data and actionable information to remedy any problems.

As generators add more renewable technologies like wind, solar, hydro power, and battery storage to the grid, they might also consider renewable energy asset management solutions like those available in the Ovation Green platform.

All of these technologies are currently on display at the Ovation Users’ Group conference in Pittsburgh. If you are already visiting the conference, be sure to stop by their booths, where you can see them in action. And stay tuned for more updates on the exciting news coming out of the conference!

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