The role of IoT in the era of renewable energy

In today’s world, we are heading towards a time where renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are becoming the standard rather than just an alternative. Therefore, it is essential to harness the power of IoT and other related technologies to facilitate the shift towards a more sustainable energy system.

The growing utilization of renewable energy resources brings about an even greater need for grid stability. This poses significant challenges for grid operators and utilities, particularly due to the intermittent nature of distributed energy sources. Incorporating numerous variable sources presents both technical and operational obstacles, especially in ensuring that power grids remain stable and capable of delivering the correct voltage and frequency to customers, precisely when and where they require it.

Nevertheless, the Internet of Things (IoT) offers potential benefits in addressing these challenges. It not only enhances grid stability but also enables real-time monitoring of renewable assets. This is particularly valuable considering that many of these assets are located in remote, hostile, or hard-to-reach areas. By leveraging IoT technology, it is possible to effectively monitor and manage these assets from a central location, ensuring their optimal performance and minimizing downtime.

In addition to grid stability and asset monitoring, IoT can also play a crucial role in optimizing energy usage and promoting energy efficiency. By collecting and analyzing data from various interconnected devices, IoT can provide valuable insights on energy consumption patterns, identify areas for improvement, and enable smarter decision-making regarding energy management.

Furthermore, IoT can facilitate the integration of renewable energy into existing infrastructure. By enabling seamless communication and coordination between various components of the energy system, IoT can enhance the reliability and efficiency of renewable energy generation, storage, and distribution.

Offshore wind power presents its own set of unique challenges, as these wind farms are located in difficult-to-reach areas. Despite their remote locations, these wind farms still require constant monitoring and maintenance to ensure the structural integrity of the turbines. Wind turbines, which are both large and complex, are particularly susceptible to wear and tear, especially in vital components such as bearings.

One of the main issues with wind turbines is that the bearings and gearboxes can fail prematurely, long before they reach their expected end of life. Equipment failures are a major cause of downtime, resulting in costly unplanned repairs and replacements. This poses a significant challenge for the wind power industry.

To address this challenge, the use of IoT sensors can be implemented on the turbines to continuously monitor the structural health of the wind turbines. These sensors would collect valuable data and transmit it wirelessly to a central hub for analysis. By employing wireless connections, communication becomes more reliable, especially in cases where there may be potential damage to the subsea cabling.

By integrating IoT sensors into offshore wind turbines, operators can proactively monitor the condition of the turbines and detect any early signs of failure or deterioration. This real-time monitoring allows for timely maintenance and repairs, reducing downtime and minimizing costly interruptions to power generation. Ultimately, the implementation of IoT technology in offshore wind power can greatly enhance the efficiency and reliability of these renewable energy sources.

Solar farms face similar difficulties. Solar technology requires continuous monitoring and upkeep. In this regard, wireless communications can be instrumental, particularly when strategically placing IoT sensors and devices in areas inaccessible to other technologies.

For instance, desert regions house some of the largest solar projects globally. These environments are hostile, hot, and exceedingly demanding to operate in. The extreme temperatures experienced in deserts can induce expansion and contraction in solar panels, while sand and dust particles can compromise the structural soundness of equipment, potentially leading to mechanical strain.

Many of these large-scale structures operate independently without a maintenance crew on site, so it is crucial to have real-time data and information about any damage that may occur.

All the equipment within these structures produces data, including the solar panels, the rack system that holds the panels, and the trackers that adjust their position in relation to the sun. Additionally, data is generated by the inverters, batteries, charge controllers, and cabling associated with the system. Furthermore, the substation, security system, and grounds maintenance protocols also contribute to the overall data generated. As a result, the digital landscape created by these individual assets can be quite complex and disorganized.

Fortunately, IoT technologies offer a solution to this problem by transforming this chaotic scenario into easily interpretable information flows. One example of this is using OPC UA, which allow to standardize and combine the sensor data produced by all assets into a cohesive plant structure. By combining the data from all these assets, companies can gain a comprehensive overview of global operations and performance with just a single glance. This unified view provides companies with a standardized representation of contextualized data structures across their entire fleet of assets.

To fully leverage the power of OPC UA technology and IoT connectivity, our KPA Automation softPLC provides an ideal solution. With its robust and advanced capabilities, companies can effortlessly create and configure OPC UA Servers, which ensure secure communication using digital certificates and data encryption. Furthermore, the OPC UA Client feature in KPA Automation softPLC provides possibility to easily retrieve real-time values from OPC UA Servers and seamlessly integrate them into SCADA systems. This integration allows companies to ensure grid stability, monitor renewable assets, and optimize energy usage.

OPC UA Servers can also stream data to cloud-hosted applications. These could include backend servers, big data analytics for optimization of the system and predictive maintenance. This stream is possible using the OPC UA Publish-Subscribe communication mechanism in KPA Automation softPLC. It enables devices to communicate with the cloud using MQTT, a highly efficient low-bandwidth messaging protocol. To ensure compatibility with web-based solutions, sensor data can be conveniently packed in JSON format. The integration of these technologies allows for real-time transmission of sensor data to the cloud, where it can be securely stored and analyzed for actionable insights. With this capability, companies can gain valuable information about their systems’ performance, identify potential issues proactively, and optimize operations to maximize efficiency.

As we continue to strive towards meeting our growing energy demands through renewable sources, harnessing the potential of IoT and its related technologies becomes increasingly crucial. By capitalizing on these advancements, we can pave the way for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy future.

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