Ovation Users’ Group – Pandemic Challenges and Shift Toward Renewables Drives Digitalized Control and Centralization

by , , | Aug 24, 2020 | Capital Projects, Control & Safety Systems, Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, Power Generation, Water & Wastewater

Todd Walden

Author and Blogger

The challenges associated with a shift toward renewables and maintaining business continuity during a global pandemic have resulted in new opportunities that have been a constant topic among attendees at Emerson’s 2020 Ovation™ Users’ Group Conference. Customers are meeting these challenges with bold ideas and expansive projects focused on digital technologies, centralized operations, secure connectivity, and better visibility across the enterprise.

A trusted partner through times of change

The demand for essential services, such as power generation, hasn’t stopped because of COVID. If anything, the pandemic changed how organizations think about operations, highlighting new unprecedented challenges that they must overcome.

Monil Malhotra, Emerson’s North America vice president of power and water solutions, celebrated how Emerson’s customers have altered their approach, moving to innovative digital solutions to keep projects on the path to success.

We had to modify our project execution methodology pretty much overnight, which was easy because we already had the tools in place to virtually support project schedules. Working collaboratively with our customers, we went from hosting 90% in-person FATs and design reviews to over 80% conducted remotely.

Monil emphasized that the same project adaptations allowing Emerson’s customers to maintain project schedules and keep personnel safe have created several other benefits. Reduced travel costs and accessibility of subject matter experts across the globe are driving organizations to continue pursuing the innovative changes required to maintain business continuity.

Renewables drive a shift toward centralized and innovative control strategies

Rick Marchionda, director of power project solutions at Emerson, spoke at length about how the shift toward renewable energy has renewed focus on maximizing operations.

Renewable energy’s unique challenges, such as curtailing power output, minimizing the impact of variability and quickly responding to grid frequency events are driving more effective solutions that increase production, revenue potential and grid stability. Rick proposed a scenario many organizations would be familiar with:

Imagine you’re connected to dispatch and they request that you curtail. Is your system able to follow this request? The risk of not following it can be very costly.

Emerson collaborates with our customers’ engineering teams and renewable OEMs to develop control strategies that are readily available to address these situations and facilitate compliance with dispatch instructions, enabling delivery of the right demand at the right time.

As power providers expand their generating portfolios with more renewables that span multiple geographically dispersed facilities, centralized management becomes key to efficient operations. Rick discussed power generation’s ever-growing need for remote operation centers that centralize operating and engineering functions at a common location,

providing several benefits such as reduced travel expenses, faster response from subject matter experts, and improved organizational oversight using aggregated data.

Ovation offers a single platform acting as a data aggregator for all assets in the plant—a strategy Emerson has deployed for years at numerous solar plants around the globe. These plants use the Ovation system to collect data from meteorological stations, tracker systems, inverters, and battery management systems to increase visibility of plant or fleet operations, helping personnel make adjustments to meet demand at the point of interconnect.

Emerson has interfaced with most, if not all inverter OEMs that deliver solutions in North America. We can work with you and the OEM to understand the capability and the expectation to customize a solution using the features available with each asset.

Leveraging advanced applications to transform operations

Jim Murray, director of new generation power projects and water automation at Emerson, highlighted advanced control applications that organizations are employing in response to the increased variability introduced by renewables. These applications increase reliability, reduce O&M costs, and improve operational flexibility and responsiveness to grid demand variability.

One example described how many plants streamline their operations approach with procedural integration. Integrating operator procedures into the control system drives repeatable and consistent operations resulting in fuel and time savings.

Procedural integration can replace over 20 pages of startup procedures with intuitive graphics. At each step in the process, procedural integration checks to ensure that the necessary prerequisites are satisfied before prompting the next operator action.

Jim highlighted two additional strategies, advanced bypass and drum level control applications,  from the Ovation suite of over a dozen power-specific advanced applications that increases resilience and improves the dynamic responsiveness of a unit.

Conference Continues Through Aug. 27

The Ovation Users’ Group Conference resumes August 25, 26, and 27. These three days will be in-depth, expert-led industry sessions focused on the power, water, and wastewater segments.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.