Cloud-based solutions to enable the smart power grid: highlights from the 2017 Hannover Messe
Cloud-based software solutions that support the growing need for connectivity were a key theme at the 2017 Hannover Messe, particularly noted within the smart grid sector. Solutions presented by global utility vendors included Lumada from Hitachi, Intergrict from Hyundai Electric, Predix from GE, Ability by ABB, Mindsphere by Siemens and EcoStruxure by Schneider Electric.
These cloud-based solutions are considered by the entire smart utility industry as a primary enabler of the smart grid of the future. The offer of a smarter, more capable platform that can collect, aggregate and present data from multiple utility legacy systems, is rapidly gaining in value to utilities worldwide, primarily to facilitate the implementation of new generation analytics. More data, collected from more sources, and more frequently captured from electric equipment on the grid will improve a utility’s monitoring and control applications. Additionally, models and analytics are increasingly becoming part of the solution to offer key information concerning equipment performance, asset lifecycle management, operational costs and more.
These software and connectivity solutions allow for a better and faster communication, frequency and reliability across the growing network of sensors and data generated. This results in significantly less time for operational response and well-informed decision making for the utility. The vendor offerings range from software services and the use of a platform, to providing an entire service solution, which would include monitoring and control of system operation.
Some of the main capabilities and utility benefits being provided with these cloud based solutions are:
- Energy Management
Controlling and monitoring the equipment, as well as knowing the best time to trade electricity are very beneficial in the electricity utility market.
- Asset Lifecycle Management
Knowing when maintenance would be needed and being able to predict the life expectancy of the equipment is key for power utilities and the grid performance.
- Microgrid Control
As energy storage solutions are becoming more cost attractive, microgrids are also gaining more importance; therefore driving an increasing need to know how to control these systems and operate them in the most efficient way.
Some companies, including GE and Siemens, have designed their products as open source software (OSS). The cloud-based solutions Predix and Mindsphere are OSS platforms with simple architecture that allows developers to create apps to be used in their ecosystems. In terms of market penetration, these solutions might have more acceptance due to the fact that the end-user can create their own system applications according to their needs. However, other suppliers prefer to be both platform and application developers to offer a comprehensive solution with their own expertise and knowledge of the electrical equipment.
It remains unclear which business model or offering will be the one preferred by the utilities developing their smart power grids in the future, including the question of open source or closed source solutions. But in the meantime, the marketing messages from shows like Hannover Messe continue to point to the fight to be the central platform in an evolving market place.