– How IoT is transforming the energy sector

  • Remote monitoring and asset management

Affixing IoT sensors to production, transmission and distribution equipment can allow energy companies to monitor them remotely. These sensors measure parameters such as vibration, temperature and wear to optimize maintenance programs. This preventive maintenance approach can dramatically improve reliability by keeping equipment in optimal gear and providing the ability to make repairs before it fails.

Digital twin technology, which involves creating an advanced digital model of existing equipment, could also help. IoT sensors attached to the physical unit collect data on its performance, which they transmit to the digital twin. In addition to supporting preventive maintenance programs, this technology enables virtual troubleshooting and support from remote locations.

IoT sensors can also help improve security. Installing internet-connected sensors on pipelines can help detect leaks which, if left unchecked, can lead to fires or explosions. Leaks are also a waste of resources and contribute to global warming.

The energy grid is increasingly distributed thanks to the rise of residential solar and other technologies. Residential solar capacity has grown rapidly in recent years and could grow more than three times to 41 gigawatts by 2025, according to a Credit Suisse analysis. Homeowners and businesses can now generate their own electricity by placing solar panels on their roofs or even by building small wind turbines on their properties. This increasingly distributed electrical system represents a major change for energy companies. In addition to managing a few large generators, they now have to manage an increasing number of small production resources spread over the network.

This presents a challenge for network operators, but smart grid technology powered by IoT helps to enable this distributed energy transformation. A smart grid uses IoT technology to detect changes in electricity supply and demand. It can react autonomously to these changes or provide operators with the information they need to manage demand more precisely.

In addition to providing more information to utilities, IoT technology can help customers be better informed about their energy consumption. Internet-connected smart meters collect usage data and send it to utilities and remote customers. Thanks to smart meter technology, many energy companies are now sending their customers detailed reports on their energy consumption.

Customers can also install smart devices in their homes or commercial buildings that measure the power consumed by each device and device. They can use this information to identify waste and especially energy-hungry devices to save on their energy bill. Other IoT devices, such as thermostats, can automatically optimize their operation to reduce power consumption. Residential customers could potentially benefit the most from these technologies, as the U.S. residential sector represents 37% of energy consumption. The commercial and industrial sectors, which consume 35 and 27 percent respectively, could also benefit substantially.

IoT technology can enable the integration of more distributed resources into the network, but it can improve network management in other ways as well. Placement of sensors in substations and along distribution lines provides real-time energy consumption data that energy companies can use to make decisions about voltage control, load switching, network configuration, etc. Some of these decisions can be automated.

Sensors on the grid can alert operators of outages, allowing them to shut off power to damaged lines to prevent electrocution, forest fires and other dangers. Smart switches can automatically isolate problem areas and redirect power to turn lights back on sooner.

Energy usage data can also be used as a basis for load forecasting. It can help manage congestion along transmission and distribution lines and help ensure that all connected generation plants meet requirements for frequency and voltage control. This energy use data can also help businesses decide where to build new infrastructure and perform infrastructure upgrades.

The IoT is transforming almost every sector of our economy, including the one that powers it, the energy sector. Over the next few years, the energy industry will become smarter, more efficient, more distributed and more reliable, in part thanks to the IoT.

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