This article was written in partnership with Bloomberg Media Studios. It is an interview with Pat Byrne, Chief Executive Officer, GE Onshore Wind. Pat previously served as CEO, GE Digital.
Let’s explore how your products function as the brains for a variety of industries, starting with the power industry. How does upgrading the power grid help renewable sources of power, with lower carbon footprints, expand their markets?
Our digital technologies work across power generation, transmission and distribution. In power generation, we improve the efficiency of the equipment. Take a wind turbine, as an example. The wind doesn’t blow all the time. So rather than service that turbine at regular intervals, you’ll want to perform maintenance after a certain number of rotations. Our predictive analytics, using historical data and sensors on the equipment, help you determine when that will be. And it allows you to schedule the maintenance, rather than have to perform it suddenly, when a part on the turbine breaks.
In transmission, our software enables utilities to forecast demand and supply better. That way, they don’t oversupply the grid, creating more CO2 than is necessary. In distribution, our software helps utilities keep the power grid stable, despite surges in use, weather events, or other stresses on the system.
When hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters hit, power often is interrupted. How can digital tools fix what generally requires a worker in a truck to repair?
Digital systems can help limit the outages. “Self-healing” systems can detect a downed power line and reroute that power to a feeder line. Customers near where the line went down will be without power until a crew arrives, but most customers on the line will have their power restored quickly and automatically.
During 2020’s Hurricane Sally, Alabama Power implemented 39 self-healing operations and 22,000 customers were restored in under two minutes with no human intervention.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a new hybrid model of work at home and work in the office. While many teams are able to work from home, many workers, such as those in utilities and manufacturing, often need to work on location. How are they able to work remotely, when their roles normally require a physical presence?
With the onset of the pandemic, white collar workers were often able to work from home. But so were some blue-collar workers in water utilities and manufacturing companies. How were they able to work remotely, when their roles normally require a physical presence?
A great example is in Massachusetts where the City of Haverhill’s water treatment plants have used our automation software for many years for remote operations and monitoring. The automation software captures precise, real-time data from sensors and control equipment, displaying it on graphical screens that guide operators through the right actions.
In normal times, the Haverhill may have 10 or more people at a given plant. When COVID-19 hit, the team was prepared to keep water flowing to 58,000 homes and businesses while working from safe locations. They were able to operate with folks monitoring the plants using laptops or tablets from home. Remote teams see the same data and screens as if they were on the plant floor, monitoring everything from water levels and the revolutions per minute of pumps to the amount of treatment chemicals being dispersed.
At its Integrated Smart Operations Center, New York Power Authority (NPYA) also uses online remote monitoring of power plants, sub-stations and power lines to increase plant efficiency and productivity, reduce unplanned downtime, lower maintenance costs and minimize operational risks. At the onset of the pandemic, and in less than 24 hours, they enabled 2,400 NYPA and New York State Canal team members to work safely from their homes. NYPA's suite of asset performance management software enabled critical infrastructure to remain operational while minimizing risk to the health of its workforce, with no significant operational events during this period.