It is increasingly clear that we are in a climate transition whose impact will have direct consequences for the planet if corrective actions are not deployed. In this context, the European Green Deal has set multiple initiatives to make Europe climate neutral in 2050.
The way to achieve these objectives is, on the one hand, regulatory since fiscal and pricing policies will have to be modified, and specific industries will need to be provided with incentives and financing to transition to a new energy system. On the other hand and equally important is an investment in technology. There is a need for investment in R&D in new technologies that will help transform the production into a more decarbonized, more distributed, and more digital.
Why Is Everyone Talking About Edge Computing And How Is It Being Applied In The Electrical Sector?
In this context, we can witness the electricity grid being immersed in this process of disruptive transformation. Some of the requirements that are driving this change are:
- The need to integrate new sources such as electric vehicles or heat pumps
- The need to generate and store energy in a distributed manner. We are no longer talking about consumers, but prosumers (producers and consumers) who can group together in energy communities.
- Regulatory or commercial requirements to provide more and better information to users, regulators and other agents
- The need for distributors, marketers and other actors in the value chain to generate new services that build customer loyalty in an increasingly competitive environment.
With all these requirements, the future electrical grid will need to manage multidirectional energy that demands real-time information between the utility, its suppliers, partners, and customers.
In the particular case of the medium and low voltage grid, with thousands of geographically distributed Electrical Substations, with coverage and connectivity problems, and with near-real-time needs for the decision making, the Cloud is an option with limited viability due to latency, cost, and scalability issues. On the other hand, SCADA technologies are highly oriented to automation and do not optimally cover the new needs with proprietary, inflexible, and inaccessible data structures.
Role of Edge Computing in the Electricity Sector
Edge Computing in the electricity sector means introducing local computing equipment in each electrical substation or Transformation Center. Implementing local computing will bring data storage and processing capabilities closer to the location where it is needed. Thus, improving the solution’s scalability, response times, and savings in bandwidth and operational costs.
This new equipment enables:
- The integration of information legacy equipment and new loads through electrical protocols such as IEC-102, IEC-104, IEC-61850, DNP3 or Modbus among others
- The processing, normalization or local data storage through Artificial Intelligence algorithms, in many cases industrialized through Docker containers
- «Meshed» communications between Electrical Substations, that traditionally only communicate with adjacent ones through PLC communications.
With these capabilities, the ability to exploit data and operate on Electrical Substations is multiplied exponentially. The detection time improves, the reparation faults, and the technical and non-technical quality losses, are severely reduced. There is also the business opportunity to create new services and commercial offerings based on real-time information for users.
However, Edge Computing poses several challenges that are important to address, including:
- How do we ensure the correct integration of the different providers operating in the Transformation Center?
- How do we coordinate the execution of algorithms that may involve several Edge points in the network?
- How do we automate the lifecycle of a distributed deployment (installation, configuration, maintenance, decommissioning) to make it scalable and viable?
- How do we maintain data and equipment cybersecure, in such a distributed and critical environment?
Energy companies must make sure they answer those questions before launching an Edge Computing project.