Siemens and the Holy Trinity of the Digital Substation

Digitalisation has become the key enabler of what’s nothing short of a new energy revolution. It’s a shift that creates real value in a steadily evolving energy system and is one steered by decentralization, decarbonization, and a rapidly expanding IoT capable infrastructure.

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Siemens-and-the-Holy-Trinity-of-the-Digital-Substation

The Internet of Energy

The management of our future energy is no easy task. Siemens states that “It will be characterised by a high degree of bidirectional flows that need to be constantly managed.” Siemens see this management of the ‘Internet of Energy’ as a collaboration. They see it as a coming together of power producers, infrastructure operators, and consumers, whose unification takes full advantage of IoT connectivity through Siemens’ cloud-based, open IoT operating system: MindSphere. The goal is to ensure that “the information required to coordinate supply and demand and to ensure grid security and stability is always present.”

It’s a brave and exciting new world! It’s a bold shift to a digital mindset, where collaborative input and analysis are the keys to success.

Key Challenges

I spoke with Manfred Unterweger, Head of Portfolio Consulting for Smart Grid Products at Siemens, about the key challenges for grid operators. He highlighted the primary concerns of reliability and profitability. He said, “in general, grid operators have to ensure a certain level of availability and reliability of the power supply whatever the current situation is.”

“Depending on where our customers are, they are facing a lot of challenges like the increasing power grid dynamics through fluctuating infeed and consumption, decentralised power generation via wind or photovoltaic, aging infrastructure etc. And, with all these circumstances, they have to show a profitable business to their investors and to safeguard acceptable safety for people and investment at any time.”

— Manfred Unterweger, Head of Portfolio Consulting for Smart Grid Products at Siemens

The Ability to Adapt

Manfred went on to explain how new digital substations add the value needed to overcome these issues.

“digital substations with the utilization of new technologies like LPITs (Low Power Instrument Transformer) in combination with process bus communication or the use of IoT technologies, can provide the value needed to master the challenges. This results in reduced investment due to the smart footprint of the switchgear, less copper cabling and lower lifetime costs through predictive maintenance and grid operation support and, perhaps most importantly, increased safety for people and equipment.”

— Manfred Unterweger

An impressive part of the Siemens’ vision—now coming to life through Mindsphere—is its immersive grasp of business agility. Manfred explains this as “the ability to adapt to the business environment and regulations which are in place, as well as to adapt to the future.”

The Key to Rapid Adoption

And it’s with this mindset that Siemens are making their mark on the new digital world. From a substation point of view, Siemens have landmarked a system which is flexible enough to adapt very quickly with minimal investment, something that Manfred claims is the key to its rapid adoption.

“For example,” he remarked, “the use of components which can be upgraded and/or extended with additional hardware or software components, or software applications like SCADA systems which can be upgraded over their lifetime, are providing the legacy systems most needed by the industry.”

The Golden Egg

But where exactly does MindSphere fit into this new digital ecosystem? Manfred was quick to explain: “With the connectivity to MindSphere, we are offering a powerful environment, allowing not only us but also third-parties the use of a comprehensive platform to realise valuable applications and helping our customers to operate the grid.”

What has impressed me most about Siemens solutions are the fact that they work on the premise of being ‘Modular, Flexible and Intelligent’; the holy trinity of digital attributes needed within the energy sector and ones which define Siemens as a leader in their field.

There’s no doubt that digitalisation is the future and that the energy we create and use every day needs to be secured and managed for generations to come. In a nest of ‘alternative’ offerings, Siemens energy solutions are grounded in collaboration and that, above all is what makes their egg the golden one.