GE unveils transformational Digital Power Plant

Software and hardware solution creates a virtual ‘digital twin’ of an existing plant

GE yesterday unveiled a digital initiative that it claims will revolutionise the power industry and save plant operators billions of dollars.

The Digital Power Plant is a software and hardware solution that creates a virtual ‘digital twin’ of an existing power plant.

The twin resides in GE’s own cloud platform Predix and it monitors and models every asset in the existing plant. This will allow operators to not only carry out real-time monitoring and maintenance, but also give them the opportunity to use the virtual plant to run simulations of conditions likely to face the real plant.

The technology can be applied to gas-fired plants, nuclear power stations and wind farms and yesterday GE Power & Water president Steve Bolze said that for the power industry, “digitization is the next game changer”.

GE launched the Digital Power Plant at a press conference in San Francisco, and in doing so it also redefined itself as a “true software company”, adding that this year it expects to see $6bn in software revenue, with this figure hitting $15bn by 2020.

GE said that it utilised around 100 million hours of power plant data in order to build the Digital Power Plant technology, which it claimed could save as much as $50m over the remaining life of an existing combined cycle gas-fired power plant and $230m for a new plant.

“To transform the entire energy value chain, we need a purpose-built, modern digital industrial stack – from software-defined machines, to the controls, to the cloud,” said Ganesh Bell, GE Power & Water’s chief digital officer.

Bolze hailed the Digital Power Plant as transformational technology and said it had been created to meet global energy needs and bring cutting-edge digital technology to the power sector.

“The world is expected to need 50 per cent more power over the next 20 years, including providing electricity for the 1.3 billion people without access today,” he said. “At the same time, the electricity industry is undergoing a radical digital transformation, unlocking whole new opportunities. Imagine the benefits to our global economy and society when the power source of the world's economy, electricity, is as digitally connected and efficient as the modern technologies dependent on that electrical power.”

GE said that by 2025, “central generation of energy will account for up to 95 per cent of the energy mix by 2025, and as a result, the Digital Power Plant will enable GE’s utility and industrial customers to harness information technologies to optimize the underlying infrastructure that generates electricity.

It said this would happen “in a manner that will transform the way electricity is generated and managed worldwide, helping minimize the impact of power production and consumption to the climate”.

Key to the roll-out of the Digital Power Plant is its use on existing power projects, and to achieve this GE has teamed with its customers Exelon Generation and PSEG to run the technology on gas, nuclear and wind plants.

Michael Pacilio, Exelon executive vice-president, said that the power industry “is on the precipice of a digital disruption, and Exelon is very pleased to partner with GE on several pilot programs that will help us deliver significant benefits for our customers, the industry and the environment”.

GE’s Bolze added that he was “incredibly excited about the impact this partnership will deliver in terms of customer value and decarbonization. The world needs affordable, accessible, reliable, secure and sustainable power and digitization is the next game changer.”

PSEG Fossil president Rich Lopriore said: “For merchant generators, every bit of efficiency and productivity matters to our bottom line. Having the best power generation technology – both physical and digital is critical to our competitiveness. Technology is the way we need to go in order to stay competitive in the industry.”

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