Coping with Constantly Changing Electrical Grid Supply

Last week I was at the Ovation Users’ Group meeting in Pittsburgh. At one of the social events, I had the opportunity to sit next to two power producers who led the automation efforts at two coal-fired, steam generation plants.

They described how the amount of renewable energy from wind and solar had dramatically changed how their plants operated.

Where they once ran with a very consistent load profile, which is the way the plant had been designed, they now have a constantly changing load profile based on wind and cloud conditions.

Thermal stress on the plant equipment such the steam generators, boilers, boiler tubes and valves is the result of chasing the load swings.

A couple ways they are coping with these operating changes is better steam control through better temperature measurements, model-based control strategies and improved attemperation. See last week’s blog post, Power Generation Improved Steam Temperature Control.

Another way to address the thermal stress is machinery health monitoring to provide predictive analytics that a failure may be coming soon. In the Ovation distributed control system, the Ovation Machinery Health Monitor is fully integrated to provide predictive capabilities to identify imbalances, misalignments, bearing friction and other issues that can lead to forced outages if left undetected. See last week’s post, Integrated Machinery Health Monitoring for more.

While there is no way to avoid thermal stress conditions given the change in load profiles caused by intermittent, renewable sources of energy on the grid, solutions such as these can help mitigate their effects to provide more reliable and efficient operations.