An AI solution to aging power grids

Image created using AI. created by Marcus Moloko

The world’s power grids are showing their age. The average grid infrastructure in the US is a staggering 40 years old, with a quarter exceeding half a century of service.

South Africa faces a similar situation. Modernization is a long-term solution, but there are ways to squeeze more efficiency out of existing systems – and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is emerging as a powerful tool.

One key benefit of AI is its ability to predict equipment failures. By analyzing data from various systems and sensors, AI can identify potential problems before they cause outages.

This allows energy providers to schedule maintenance proactively, minimizing downtime and costly repairs.

AI also excels at continuous monitoring. It can detect anomalies in real time, triggering early warnings and enabling the creation of preventative maintenance strategies.

These AI-driven systems optimize maintenance schedules, leading to improved grid reliability and a more consistent energy supply.

But AI doesn’t work in isolation. It leverages data collected by two key systems: SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and historians.

SCADA systems gather real-time data on energy flow and equipment status. When fed into AI algorithms, this data empowers predictive maintenance and recommendations.

On the other hand, historic systems store historical data, capturing trends and performance metrics over time. AI can analyze this historical data alongside real-time information to make even more precise predictions and suggest optimal maintenance actions.

The combined power of real-time and historical data provides AI with a rich tapestry of information. This allows for in-depth analysis, leading to predictive maintenance, optimized schedules, and ultimately, fewer equipment failures.

The result: a more efficient and reliable energy network.

The benefits of AI in energy management are compelling:

  • Reduced Downtime: AI predicts equipment failures, preventing outages and ensuring a steady flow of energy.
  • Cost Savings: Optimized maintenance schedules and prevented breakdowns translate to lower operational costs for energy providers.
  • Resource Optimization: By analyzing data, AI can optimize energy distribution, ensuring resources are used efficiently.
  • Generation to Transmission: AI can optimize power plant operations, improve grid efficiency, and minimize downtime across the entire energy chain.
  • The impact is far-reaching. From power generation to transmission and distribution, AI-driven energy management ensures a stable and efficient energy supply for everyone.

Beyond its immediate benefits, AI is having a transformative effect on fault location, isolation, and restoration (FLISR) processes in modern electrical networks. AI algorithms can analyze vast datasets to pinpoint anomalies and accurately classify faults.

Equipped with these insights, decision support systems can advise operators in real-time, facilitating efficient strategies for isolating and restoring faults. Additionally, AI-driven optimization algorithms can automatically reconfigure the network to minimize outages and restore power swiftly.

Integration with SCADA and Distribution Management Systems (DMS) further enhances FLISR capabilities. This empowers utilities to improve reliability, operational efficiency, and ultimately, reduce downtime.

While the focus here has been on utilities, the bigger picture is undeniable. Energy networks are the lifeblood of modern economies, powering everything from factories to mines.

AI-driven maintenance ensures uninterrupted operations, supporting business continuity and economic growth.

In a world grappling with aging infrastructure, AI is emerging as a powerful tool to squeeze more efficiency and reliability out of existing power grids. It’s a win-win for utilities, businesses, and ultimately, everyone who relies on a steady flow of energy.

By Dwibin Thomas, Cluster Automation Leader at Schneider Electric

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