A Twin for the Win: How Digital Twinning Supports Advanced Analytics in T&D

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Sadly, compared to other sectors, digital transformation in the T&D industry has been slower to pick up. Here’s an insight from a round table discussion organized by PricewaterhouseCoopers:

“Digital transformation is top of company agendas. Over 80 percent of CEOs view key digital technologies such as data mining and mobile customer engagement as strategically important for their company. But successful capture of the benefits of digitization is a tough call for many companies and power & utilities is a sector that is a little way off the pace.”

One of the emerging technologies that can catapult and catalyze digital transformation in the T&D sector is digital twinning.

Digital Twins Explained

The concept of digital twins or digital twinning has been around since 2002. However, it was only through the Internet of Things (IoT) that digital twinning became cost-effective to implement.

There are a number of versions when it comes to the definition of a digital twin, but we like this one provided by sought-after technology advisor Bernard Marr: “Quite simply, a digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.”

Think of a digital twin as a bridge between the digital and physical world. Pertaining to each physical asset, there’s a virtual copy (or a digital twin so to speak) stored in the cloud that is enriched with every data collected.

From 2017 to this year, Gartner has included digital twin as one of the top strategic technology trends:

According to the 2019 report: “By 2020, Gartner estimates there will be more than 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things.”

We’re not surprised. Today, we are excited to see how digital twinning is transforming advanced analytics in the T&D industry, paving the way a smarter grid.

Assess Long-Term Scenarios and Investments

One of the main benefits of implementing digital twins in the energy transmission and distribution industry is enabling accurate forward visibility and well-informed decisions when it comes to long-term strategic scenarios and investments.

Take the example of GE and its energy wind farm. Digital twinning allowed GE to set turbine configurations for optimal efficiency even before procurement and construction. According to GE: “Each digital wind farm begins life as a digital twin, a cloud-based computer model of a wind farm at a specific location. The model allows engineers to pick from as many as 20 different turbine configurations – from pole height to rotor diameter and turbine output – for each pad at the wind farm and design its most efficient real-world doppelganger.”

Enhance Analytics with Interoperable Data Exchange and Synchronization

There may be several grid models associated with a single physical power grid. Each model is associated with various aspects like planning, outage management, operations etc. Different teams working on these systems have their own processes and store data in custom formats, making data interoperability and synchronization almost impossible. Siloed data is one of the leading issues facing DSOs today, inhibiting their ability to find service improvements and operational savings.

We advocate for interoperability and synchronization because it has an effect on optimal grid operations. Inconsistencies may lead to subpar performance and model errors — leading to widespread issues.

Through digital twinning, the physical grid and virtual grid models are aligned with a single source of truth to model data. Digital twins synchronize data from various systems and standardize the information into one multi-user database. This smarter analytics also pave the way for smarter grids which lead to reliable operations and maintenance, and efficient and secure electrical system planning.

Real-Time Predictive Analytics

Evaluating long-term strategic scenarios and potential investments is arguably the most common use of digital twinning that we see in T&D, but an emerging application is using digital twins to manage operations in real-time.

Digital twinning provides utility asset managers with improved real-time analysis coupled with critical efficiency parameters. Data-driven, real-time predictive analytics prevents downtime through efficiency optimization and predictive maintenance. With digital modeling, DSOs can predict under-performance or over-loading of assets leading to equipment failures, and thereby enhance uptime and life-time of assets whilst minimizing excessive physical repair costs.

Advanced Analytics that Advances Your Bottomline

We always believe that in order to grow your numbers (a.k.a. your profits), you have to know your numbers. Digital twins allow you to advance your grid’s analytics and give you unprecedented and unparalleled access to data. Digital twinning technology can accelerate the T&D sector’s digital transformation while reducing costs and risks.

Further, advanced analytics using digital twinning technology unlocks exciting opportunities across investment analysis, asset utilization, demand response and condition-based predictive maintenance. Digital twins minimize the negative effect of equipment failures and downtime saving millions, even billions, of dollars in the process.

Greenbird offers out-of-the-box system integration enabling digital twinning for digital utilities. We are a true DevOps company, delivering unique time-to-market and reliability. Our flagship innovation, Utilihive, empowers utilities to manage their data flow faster and smoother than traditional system integration models while accelerating the journey towards the energy revolution. Get the executive brief on Utilihive here.