Data Economy in the energy landscape - V

Wind turbines in a wind farm produce an amazing quantity of data that can be analysed to improve the life time of the turbines and decrease maintenance and outage cost. Credit: GE Reports

It is quite obvious, at least to me, that by analysing usage data one should be able to get information that might be useful to optimise production and distribution of power both on the electric grid and in all other forms of energy distribution, like refilling gas stations. 

However, I was somewhat surprised to find out the many ways in which, already today, data can make a difference in the energy sector.  Here are a few...

Turbines to generate electricity have sensors on their blades reporting various parameters related to stress due to operation conditions. A single sensor on a gas turbine, according to GE, can generate some 520GB of data per day and you have 20 blades, hence 20 sensor in each turbine: that makes for 10TB of data daily. Compare this to the 80GB of data making up a day on Twitter!

And it is not just gas turbine. Wind turbine also have sensors too and, interestingly, these sensors are measuring the stress of each blade during operation (like in gas turbine) but it has been discovered that some of this stress is the consequence of turbulence created by blades of other wind generators in the wind farm (turbulence lead to vibration in the blade).  By analysing the overall data in real time GE is able to tweak the position of the blades (direction and angle of attack) decreasing the turbulence experienced by nearby turbines. This reduces the stress and increases the life time decreasing at the same time maintenance cost.

GE has established a center in Silicon Valley with mathematicians and engineers, 200 of them, to work on data, big data, created by machines to provide biz intelligence and operation intelligence. This is a trifle, compare to the 1.5 million data scientists that are needed by the end of this decade according to McKinsey. And this, clearly, is part of the Data economy.

Interesting also to notice that a name is picking up in adoption: "Digital Oil Field". It refers to the value of data to reinvent extraction production and distribution of fossil fuels.

There is a lot of work going on in exploiting data in the energy sector, a lot has been done but most remains to be done. And it looks really like a never ending story, as more data becomes available we discover new ways to leverage on them and in turns these stimulate engineers to deploy more sensor to get even more data.  The Internet of Things is crucial in the energy sector and in turns the energy sector is giving a boost to IoT.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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