How to automate processes through IoT and telemetry in the energy sector

The energy sector is in a time of transition in which technology is playing an essential role, enabling changes in distribution models, the use of cloud models and marketing. In addition, the digital evolution has taken a step beyond telemetry, using IoT, which facilitates the optimization and automation of processes.

Smart Grid
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The energy sector is currently facing several unprecedented challenges : from the pressure of increased and more complex demand to an ageing structure, to the need to drive sustainability, security and more affordable service delivery.

Faced with these challenges, the current transformation implies a profound and permanent change in the way energy is created, managed and marketed, a step that many have already dared to take. Thus, it is estimated that 43% of energy marketing companies in the USA are currently investing in digital technologies.

We analyze the implications of the use of telemetry, IoT and digitization in the energy sector and its potential benefits.

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Telemetry and IoT in the energy sector

Telemetry, the system for measuring physical quantities and transmitting the data obtained to a distant observer, has existed and been used in the energy sector for decades.

Traditionally, telemetry has been based on making physical measurements of different magnitudes and then sending them to a control system. For example, a typical scenario is to measure the current intensity passing through a cable to know how much energy is being produced in a solar panel and then send this information to a SCADA system, supervisory control and data acquisition.

The digitization of the energy sector has meant the evolution from this system to the adoption of IoT environments. In this new scenario, the IoT allows direct access to the data, not to the physical magnitude. That is, instead of reading the current intensity, the IoT system connects to the legacy that performs that measurement, and then reads the data that this device produces (the same that it would send to the SCADA) and forwards it to the chosen remote system.

In other words, while telemetry only "reads" the data, IoT systems also allow you to act and operate remotely based on that information, and to do so easily.

IoT for energy data logging: uses and benefits

As telemetry-based systems progress, IoT in the energy sector is applied in the following ways:

  • On the power generation side, the IoT is responsible for measuring the energy produced.

For this purpose, IoT nodes (which are small intelligent hubs) are used, which are connected via different protocols to the measuring elements already existing in the production plant (e.g. inverters).

  • With regard to energy distribution , IoT systems allow the measurement of relevant parameters for the optimization of transformers located in transformer stations.

Thanks to Artificial Intelligence algorithms at the edge, it is possible to make decisions based on what is happening in the grid. Management thus becomes much more efficient through smart grids, capable of offering a simultaneous view of consumption and production, enabling more efficient and sustainable energy management.

Applied to the energy sector, IoT systems have been partly responsible for the exceptional drop in renewable energy costs, with the cost falling by 80% in the last decade, according to IRENA's 'Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019' report.

In turn, the implementation of IoT in these processes is allowing companies to access a number of advantages and benefits:

1. Accessing data to make informed decisions

IoT systems enable real-time access to data about what's happening on the network, facilitating informed decision making.

Beyond telemetry, IoT opens up new possibilities for the energy sector, generating data intelligence that also allows previously unthinkable connections to be made and new processes to be created.

Through this data, it is possible to make decisions to optimize energy production, avoid safety issues or downtime. In addition, it facilitates the reduction in operation and maintenance costs, as the data allows companies to act when failures occur or even before they occur.

2. Process automation and remote working

IoT systems are able to manage complex processes efficiently through automation. Thus, it is possible to automate the management in power plants, being able to adjust production to actual demand.

Automation not only avoids supply problems and human error, but also generates more efficient, cost-effective and higher quality processes.

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3. Remote work

Through edge intelligence applied to the power and energy sector, IoT systems enable the ability to run complex processes on-premises, i.e. without having to go through the cloud, based on much new, richer and more abundant data.

As an example, it is no longer necessary to physically supervise a photovoltaic power plant, but the system itself takes care of this monitoring.  

From here, process automation can reach new levels of complexity and provide companies with new perspectives from which to make decisions.

4. Demand and supply adjustment

The concept of a smart grid or smart gridsmart grid, linked to an IoT system, is capable of generating the necessary balance to adjust energy supply and demand, using real-time data with extraordinary granularity.

5. Forecasting for production and maintenance

Through Artificial Intelligence, IoT systems are able to perform a predictive reading of the data, anticipating the necessary production and potential maintenance actions.

Want to learn more about the digital transformation in the energy sector, moving away from telemetry-based systems to the benefits of IoT systems?

At Barbara we propose a secure operating system for the industrial IoT, helping companies to securely deploy and manage their IoT deployments.

Contact us and request a demo to see what our IoT system has to offer the energy sector.