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Picture - Bob Yager at PowerGen

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation of Power: From Concept to Reality

By Bob Yeager


Over the past four decades, the power industry has transformed beyond what we could have imagined – and now, we find ourselves at the precipice of the next big wave of change.

Evolution isn’t new to our industry: Since the early 1980s, we’ve seen monumental changes – from the launch of the internet and the growth of wireless technology to building neural networks and developing advanced pattern recognition.

Now, the power sector is experiencing more disruption than ever before. But, with this disruption comes progress.

Over the next 20 years, we will see the power industry evolve toward a software-based approach that makes operations even more efficient and secure. By harnessing emerging software-based technology, we’re able to rely more heavily on the accuracy of our computing to increase uptime and reduce human error.

The technology is addressing a larger issue as well: helping companies capture the critical tribal knowledge learned through decades of trial and error. The IoT-fueled revolution that is underway will enable leaders to train teams more efficiently using that knowledge, and the digitally transformed power plant – with its new, built-in domain expertise – can help companies ensure their plants are optimized for peak performance.

The stakes here are high: It is essential to continue changing to secure the future of power. Yet there is also no roadmap for the journey ahead; every organization has a different definition of what digital transformation means. Installing new plant software or hardware can be challenging for any industry, but a particularly daunting one in power.

However, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems – enter the digital twin.

At Emerson, we find that customers want to test new protocols and processes to optimize their operations and embrace the digital transformation that is afoot – but they want to do so with extreme care. After all, there is no margin for error in the power industry.

In response, many companies have started to implement digital twins – a simulation of a live plant that allows them to test proposed changes without compromising the real control system. But, testing in these digital twins, which exist in completely separate environments from the plant system, is an imperfect –?and potentially detrimental – process. Because they only serve as a moment-in-time snapshot, they become rapidly inaccurate and obsolete from the moment they’re created. This creates the potential for issues emerging as the live system continues operating without being reflected in the digital twin environment.

That’s why we’re focused on “embedded digital twin” technology. Using the industry’s first integrated control and simulation platform, Emerson can work with companies to create an exact digital replica of the live plant that runs in parallel with the real control system. The digital twin and plant operate more as true twins – growing up together, experiencing the same environment. This removes time boundaries and makes it possible to avoid problems in live operations.

Using this leading technology, Emerson and the plant then work collaboratively to identify operating efficiencies, improve safety and decrease unscheduled maintenance throughout their digital transformation journey securely.

Each emerging technology brings with it a new promise of greater efficiency. The embedded digital twin makes it possible to safely test these possibilities while maintaining the integrity of a critical industry that literally powers the lives of billions. Technologies like the digital twin are poised to help the power industry truly embrace digital transformation – and realize the benefits.

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