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24 June 2019

Internet of Things in energetics

The turn of XVIII and XIX century was undoubtedly a gold age of electrotechnology in human history. Many contributed to the success. Discoveries made by Faraday, Galvani, Volt or Ampèr provided the foundations for electricity which we know nowadays, and which has changed our lives forever. Light bulbs have been working in our homes constantly for over 140 years. Despite that, modern energetics is still developing. A growing demand for electric energy, renewable energy sources, or constant delivery are one of many challenges which it has to face.
 

The concept of electric turbines producing electric energy, electricity transmission lines and transformers dates back many generations. Unfortunately, we still have to wait some more time for a discovery and mass production of superconductors. To meet modern standards and maintain a high quality of electric energy, we need a constant supervision over nodes, starting with power plants and finishing with energy meters at our homes. New technologies face old problems. Obviously, energetics is no different.
 

 

Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept according to which things can monitor different parameters, accumulate data and exchange it with each other, using computer network. It turns out that implementation of this technology for currently existing energetic solutions is totally noninvasive. A possibility of collecting the data, its further analysis and drawing conclusions makes it possible for us to use, in this case, electrical energy, better, and even to make predictions concerning the future with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Coming back to the beginning, which was data collection. It is about connecting modules monitoring work parameters of the most important nodes of a given network. It turns out that solutions of this type have been successfully used by our not so distant neighbors in Switzerland, but there is work in progress to spread this technology.
 

Monitoring network operation allows electricity providers not only to detect and eliminate potential failures in delivery, but also to constantly supervise over parameters of particular nodes as well as the whole energetic networks. The advantage of implementing IoT solutions in energetics turns out to have a set of another applications. The history of power, temperature and work parameters of a given transformer allows planning service works easily as well as changing exploitative components, or choosing the right power level of a transformer for a given node. What is more, there are algorythms which can detect abnormalities on the basis of data analysis and can prevent from an incoming failure. Monitoring nodes allows calculating and detecting excess loss in electricity transmission lines, caused by wrong insulation, corrosion or stealing electricity. On the basis of precise measurements of voltage change, it is possible to calculate and make a scheme of energetic network topology without the need to keep extensive and time-consuming records. The knowledge of topology along with GPS coordinates of modules make service work and machinery park management easier. Data accumulation allows for an analysis of broadly understood quality of electricity, voltage change and rapidity of the changes in the network. It is possible to create reports based on ISO standards, which the manufacturer and electricity providers have to meet.
 

 

Another challenge for electrical energy producers is delivering a determined voltage for an end-user. Unfortunately, the demand for electricity changes not only from a year’s season to season, when we heat our houses in winter and use more light, but also during a day, when most receivers are turned off. What is more, a climate change does not make it any easier. Closing plants which use fossil fuels and increase in use of green energy brings about necessity to manage surplus and shortage of electrical energy in network during windless and cloudy days. Building dedicated accumulator plants to store the surplus of energy is too expensive because of low efficiency and lifespan of cells. The problem is partially solved by pumped storage power plants. In case of electricity shortage in network, water fuels the plant’s turbines, and in case of surplus – the plant uses the surplus of the electricity, injecting water back into the storage tank. Unfortunately, building hydroelectric dams is expensive and highly invasive for the environment. It turns out that IoT can be helpful in this field. The real-time analysis of energy use allows for easier management of spread, decentralized nodes. Communication between small plants allows for a fluent production management. Many agglomerations are more and more often introducing rolling stocks in public transport. Intelligent management of stations allows charging vehicles at night, where they are not used in at a station and while the demand for electricity is the lowest. Another example can be the use of urban lighting, which can rapidly turned on and off during emergencies.
 

Machines already communicate with each other and make independent decisions. One day, failures will be serviced by robots, skipping the human factor. Science fiction? Same was said about Benjamin Franklin when he was flying a kite during a thunderstorm.

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