Just as power system operators are mastering data analytics to optimize hardware efficiencies, they are discovering how the complexities of artificial intelligence tools can do far more, and how to choose which to use. With deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart sensor-equipped hardware, system operators are capturing unprecedented levels of data. Cloud computing and massive computational capabilities are allowing data analytics to make these investments pay off for customers. But it may take machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to address new power grid complexities. AI is a form of computer science that would make power system management fully autonomous in real time, researchers and private sector providers of power system services told Utility Dive.
Artificial intelligence (AI), in many different industries, is about to unleash the next era of digital innovation, and the power and energy (P&U) industries are no exception. The distribution of energy is not a linear equation anymore. As new sources of energy and data expand, utility providers are seeking to take a more holistic approach to understand and manage their resources and involve active clients on the edge of the grid. In a broad sense, AI makes it possible for the stakeholders to recognize the operational dynamics when it arrives in the management of power supplies and distributed resources. Utilities can harness comprehensive, real-time models to provide a more robust and efficient grid with AI-powered solutions, machine learning functioning underneath scenes to investigate different data sources, and to provide industry and customers with actionable insights.
When artificial intelligence is brought up in conversation, the classic idea of a robot versus a human emerges – somewhat of an us-versus-them mentality – but artificial intelligence works at its best when it – machine learning, natural language processing, and robotics – is viewed as a partnership with the human workforce. Enter augmented intelligence, which sits at the nexus between artificial intelligence and humans, and revolves around technology helping people to complete their work more efficiently and allowing them to focus more on high-value "human-only" type activities. Today's utilities are faced with multiple market disruptions including the proliferation of distributed energy sources, evolving regulatory and policy changes, the increased adoption of energy efficiency products and programs, changing consumer behaviors, and an imperative to modernize their technologies and processes. Faced with these disruptions, utility executives can leverage innovative approaches such as augmented intelligence to position themselves for success. Utilities make investments in new equipment by upgrading existing assets, such as transformers and substations, and performing preventative maintenance -- all with the goal of improving reliability of service.
To the untrained eye, the shipping containers clustered on the outskirts of Borrego Springs don't look like an innovative clean-energy technology that could help California cope with wildfires. But these containers, in the remote desert of eastern San Diego County, are packed with lithium-ion batteries -- and they're part of one of the world's most advanced microgrids. It combines solar panels, diesel generators, energy storage and something called an ultracapacitor to power Borrego Springs, even when electricity isn't flowing through the single transmission line that connects the town to the main power grid. "I believe this is the only microgrid in the world that does what this does," said Steven Prsha, an engineer for San Diego Gas & Electric, as he wrapped up a tour last month. The technology SDG&E is demonstrating in this rural town could serve as a lifeline to homes and businesses in fire-prone areas.
This piece was originally published in the April 2017 issue of electroindustry. Picture a tool that sees precisely into the near future and enables utilities to better protect communities, meet customer needs, and realize renewable energy's full value. That was the vision of the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) in creating the Vermont Weather Analytics Center (VWAC). The ways in which we generate, move, and use power--and how we pay for it--are changing faster than at any time since electric power came of age. Throughout the United States, steadily increasing amounts of solar and wind generation--intermittent power--are plugging into a grid that was designed to rely on stable and predictable baseload resources.