It has been an exciting month for the energy sector as the Biden-Harris administration announced a $3.5B investment to strengthen grid reliability and resilience, as well as $1.5B for the creation of three new transmission lines crossing six states. Combined with investments from the private sector the total energy investment comes to around $8B. Because what’s a few billion dollars among friends?
This all sounds great (and is), however all of this could be nothing more than the worlds largest and most expensive paperweight if the right technology is not put in place. Enter the knight in electrified armor, edge computing, and the multitude of benefits it brings for the electrification industry. Currently only one small part of the planned upgrades incorporate edge computing (depoying microgrids in the Detroit area that adapt with changing energy demands).
So why is edge computing such a great fit for electrification and grid modernization? Below are five key areas in which edge computing can be the difference between project success and catastrophic failure.
1. Infrastructure Resilience
Let’s start off with perhaps one of the most important aspects of grid operations (and one of the key focuses for the $3.5B investment), resilience. As we have seen time and time again, the US electric grid is vastly underprepared when it comes to dealing with natural disasters, supply/demand spikes, and other causes of power fluctuation. When things go wrong, blackouts are more reliable than a morning coffee leading to lost profits for businesses and more importantly the loss of life.
By utilizing edge computing, grid operators are able to respond in real time to fluctuations in power (also known as power balancing) to keep frequency deviations within 0.01 Hz and if necessary throttle power supply to ensure safe operations. This is done through edge devices directly on transformers and/or other electrical grid equipment such as batteries, solar panels, and more. To learn more about how edge computing contributes to grid resilience, check out Pratexo’s solution for Power Balancing with Fast Frequency Response (FFR).
2. Edge Analytics
There is a massive amount of data coming off of electrical grid equipment that is currently being wasted due to cloud-based infrastructure. It simply does not make economic sense to send everything back to the cloud to be analyzed, let alone the latency requirements necessary to do so. This potentially important data being missed can lead to costly equipment repairs, government penalties due to downtime, siloed data across the network, and more.
Edge computing allows for all of this data to be analyzed on the device itself, only sending the important information back to the cloud for real-time actions to be taken either autonomously or after consulting with a human expert. This allows for a switch from condition-based maintenance (maintenance after the fact) to preventative maintenance, leading to increased system uptime and much lower operating costs. See how HKN is using acoustic sensors to detect and respond to frequency changes before it becomes a major issue.
3. Clean energy Integration
With the advent of clean energy there are now more different types of energy producers than ever before (solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, coal, etc.). This is great for the environment but can cause a lot of issues when it comes to integrating all of these geographically dispersed systems.
Utilizing edge computing allows for the seamless integration of siloed infrastructure components, enabling complete system-wide monitoring and control, even across multiple OEMs. This is done through edge nodes placed directly on the equipment which communicate with all other nodes throughout the system (also sometimes referred to as a micro cloud). For more information check out our page on integrated grid monitoring.
4. Security and Regulatory Concerns
With electric grids being integral parts of modern society any blackout or disruption in service can spell disaster for both businesses and average citizens. In the age of digital warfare, electric grids are as vulnerable as a house of cards. This has led some countries, like Norway, to pull the plug on connecting their grid to the public internet, leaving traditional cloud-based solutions in the rearview mirror.
By keeping all data local to edge nodes and private micro clouds (not connected to the public internet), edge computing curbs concerns over security and drastically reduces the chances of regulatory scrutiny. For more on what this looks like in the real world visit our platform page.
5. Future Proofing and Unlocking New Revenue Streams
No business wants to be left in the dust by their competition. This is especially true in the electrification industry when upgrading equipment is extremely costly and can take a long time to implement. Exploring new market segments can also be difficult with a traditional cloud approach as integrating new technologies can be difficult at best.
The distributed nature of edge computing makes updating outdated infrastructure and adding new components much simpler. Working on one part of the system no longer means other parts must be taken offline. A great example of this is the rapidly expanding EV charging network, to learn more visit our solution page for Distributed EV Charging Management.
Edge Computing Will Power the Next Generation of Electricity Infrastructure
So there you have it, edge computing isn’t just a good idea, it’s the linchpin for the next generation of electricity infrastructure. This article just brushes the surface of what is possible, we would love to learn more about your specific needs and see if Pratexo’s edge technology is a fit. To learn more, fill out our contact form and a Pratexo Solutions Expert will be in touch.