Notable industry experts discussed the future of smart infrastructures, substation automation and the Internet of Energy, providing valuable insights for improving operational efficiency.
Last May industrial software and energy automation expert COPA-DATA hosted the Energy Experience Day in Warwick (GB), an event aimed at addressing the challenges currently faced by power utilities, municipalities and grid operators.
The energy industry, having gone through drastic changes over the last hundred years, now faces a new frontier of innovation. Usability, design, independence and the ergonomics of process control are paving the way for most critical industries. Sectors such as pharmaceutical, energy and infrastructure, food and beverage, manufacturing automation and automotive are seeking to revolutionise human interconnectivity.
Host to a series of expert presentations, the Energy Experience Day delivered insight into the key issues of standardisation and collaboration within the industry. Martyn Williams, Managing Director of COPA-DATA in Britain, kicked things off with a keynote speech looking at how far the industry has come over the last hundred years and what the future holds.
“The future of the energy industry is hugely dependent on continuous progress in the field of Smart Grids,” explained Williams. “Industrial automation software is one of the keys to creating a national grid system that is smart enough to meet the rising demand for energy and integrate renewable energy sources. Products like the zenon Energy Edition make interfaces more efficient, ergonomic and user-friendly, while also increasing the security of substations, power plants and wind farms.”
Focusing on substation automation and smart infrastructures, industry experts from Intel, Mitsubishi, Advantech, Bilfinger and the University of Salzburg (A) spoke at the event. The discussions centred on the need for standardisation within the energy supply chain.
In particular, the importance of standards such as IEC 61850, an embedded protocol used in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, was highlighted as the gateway to cost effective, multi-vendor substation automation. Its role in helping companies bridge the gap between centralised control and the increasingly dispersed nature of geo-information systems, was emphasised.
Ross Corfield, EMEA Market Development Manager for Intelligent Transportation at Intel, spoke about the Internet of Things (IoT), end-to-end (E2E) connectivity, infrastructure security and the growth of cloud computing.
“Intel is very keen to understand the issues and challenges faced by the energy sector,” he explained. “The COPA-DATA Energy Experience Day is the perfect opportunity to connect with people who operate on the ground and face these challenges on a day-to-day basis. For us, the event has been about how Intel can design the best technology that will make a difference for the future of energy.”
Jürgen Resch, Industry Manager for Energy at COPA-DATA, stressed the importance of best practice in substation automation. He demonstrated how the optimisation of software architecture has now improved control capability over geographically remote locations using portable and mobile devices.
Cost reduction was another key area highlighted by several speakers at the event. David Bean, Infrastructure Sales Manager at Mitsubishi UK, spoke about how effective telemetry and data management can yield significant cost savings in substation automation. Tony Milne, Manager for Power and Energy at Advantech, expanded on the topic of effective multi-vendor automation. He explained how IEC 61850 enables multi-vendor systems for substations to improve technical features, reduce costs and facilitate commissioning or installations.
Nigel Allen, Sales Manager at Bilfinger Industrial Automation Services, developed on the challenges faced by a non-integrated system which includes multiple companies, energy sources, interfaces, programming techniques and communication protocols. He then moved on to explain how Bilfinger addressed some of these challenges in an offshore wind farm project and an energy management application for large buildings.
Sébastien Roberto, Sales Manager at COPALP, COPA-DATA’s French subsidiary, also discussed the software needs of the energy industry. He emphasised the importance of using universal tools, which support protocols like IEC 61850, IEC 60870, MODBUS, DNP and DLMS/COSEM. He also stressed the importance of remote access, including online debugging and soft scope for the future of the energy industry. “The key,” Roberto concluded, “is to optimise resources, to ensure the reliability of products and make customers’ lives better.”
Simon Back, Researcher at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, offered a comprehensive presentation regarding the potential of bridging SCADA systems and Geoinformation systems (GIS) for the energy sector, particularly in the field of Smart Grids. For example, he explained, GIS can help visualise the position of electric consumers, generators and power lines of a Smart Grid, while SCADA can fulfil the surveillance and control function of the system.
Overall, the Energy Experience Day was received well by the public. Attendees included engineers and analysts from all parts of the industry including the British National Grid, Alstom, Atkins and Network Rail.
“The configuration specification [IEC 61850] is the key to industry development,” said Ray Zhang, Tech Leader of Automation Engineering at National Grid. “This is a wonderful forum for utilities developers, manufacturers and systems integrators to get together and share experiences and information.”
“The Energy Experience Day was all about giving people an idea, an inspiration about what can be achieved with standardised software, independence, ergonomics, IEC 61850 and collaborative partners,” explained Martyn Williams. “All of us at COPA-DATA would like to thank the attendees and we look forward to building on the success of this event with a follow-up session to be arranged for later this year.”