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Emerging utility technologies point to importance of data

Ben Farrell
December 5, 2012

Discussions based around emerging trends in the utility industry, particularly power delivery, tend to center around the rise of the smart grid. However, there is a layer of innovation taking place behind the smart grid that can have an even greater impact on sustainability - renewable resources.

Considering renewable resources

Renewable energy has been around for a while, particularly in the form of wind and solar power, but also with thermal and hydro power as well. These power generation methods, however, have been severely limited for a few key reasons. In the case of wind and solar energy, the issue is that power delivery is intermittent and unpredictable. Smart grid is helping to overcome this, but innovation is curbed by issues with energy storage. At the same time, hydro and thermal power are limited by geographical accessibility. Recent advances in energy harvesting could overcome this problem, but data needs to be central to this progress.

New solutions for hydroelectricity

According to a recent IEEE Spectrum report, several companies are collaborating to develop underwater electric generators. These turbines would be placed in the depths of the ocean, generating power through turbines that are turned by deep-sea currents.

Data implications of the technology

The potential gains offered by underwater turbines are incredible because they would provide almost constant power generation without adversely impacting the environment. However, managing a network of deep-sea turbines can present major challenges. In particular, vast arrays of sensors would likely be necessary to track water pressures, currents and wildlife in the vicinity of the devices. These factors could all contribute to damages to the turbines that nobody can notice by simply checking on the turbines every week or so. The costs would be too great. As a result, utility companies using the new technology would depend heavily on data delivered from sensors and monitoring devices to individuals who are managing the solutions.

BPM solutions for utilitiescan play a major role in turning the initial data delivered by these systems into actionable information that enables cost-effective maintenance and management. As more advanced utility technologies that take advantage of natural resources in extreme environments emerge, BPM software can function as a strategic asset to utility providers trying to benefit from these solutions.

Ben Farrell

Director of Corporate Communications