Ovation Users’ Group Power Industry Forum Tackles Modern Challenges

The power industry session at the 2023 Ovation Users’ Group conference in Pittsburgh took a closer look into the state of the industry, exploring both what is happening broadly in power generation, as well as the impact of the rise of renewables on the way plants and organizations operate.

The first session, moderated by Jim Rarey from American Electric Power, focused on the power industry in general. Jim was joined by a wide range of power industry experts:

Era of an aging workforce

The audience was highly involved in the event, sharing via online poll that they were struggling with aging workforces and attrition in the industry. Panel experts shared that they deal with many of the same concerns. Often, they explained, they find themselves struggling to backfill many of the positions most critical to plant operations.

The best way to solve this problem, they explained, is to hire more young engineers—a proposition that is easier said than done as there is often incredible competition for any personnel. However, when companies can find replacement personnel, hiring is often not enough. Because most of the experienced engineers who are leaving spent decades learning what they knew, the knowledge gap with less experienced personnel has a dramatic impact on the plant.

One solution to help close the knowledge gap, they explained is to try to fill positions before experienced people leave to help transfer as much knowledge as possible. In fact, more than one organization on the panel had brought retired engineers back to their company as consultants to help train new workers.

Communication woes

However, even when teams have access to a robust workforce, changes in the industry landscape are also complicating operation. As teams begin to add renewables to their portfolios, the experts explained, assets like inverters, wind turbines, and more do not provide access to much operational and reliability detail, making it hard for personnel to monitor them regardless of experience.

This sentiment was echoed by the second panel, led by Joel Erwin from Vistra Corporation. The panel was composed an array of experts with deep expertise in renewables:


 The panelists shared that renewables technology moves incredibly fast, making it nearly impossible to standardize assets across a fleet. Moreover, many organizations are expanding their renewables portfolio by acquiring other companies, and when they do, they need to find ways to incorporate existing technology at those sites with the technology they already have. Ultimately, it becomes nearly impossible to standardize assets.

Panelists from multiple organizations explained that many in the industry rely on renewable energy asset management tools to help make integration easier. In many cases a combination of Emerson’s Ovation Green renewable asset management and SCADA software along with innovations in the field and control room have helped them navigate the complexity of integrating assets from a wide variety of third party sources. Ovation technologies like solar plant SCADA systems and wind turbine SCADA systems, they shared, make it easier to handle monitoring, control, and change management across a site, a fleet, or even multiple fleets of renewables.

Stay tuned to the Automation Experts Blog and Emerson social media for more #OvationUG content all week long.

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