Edge Computing use case in the Electricity Sector

The future electrical grid will need to respond to a multidirectional energy flow that demands real time information between the utility, its suppliers, partners and customers. Edge Computing is the technology that enables real time information, and the ability to scale.

Smart Grid
Written by:
David Purón

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are in a climate transition whose impact will have direct consequences for the planet if corrective actions are not being deployed. In this context, in the European Union, the European Green Deal has set multiple initiatives with the of making Europe climate neutral in 2050.

The way to achieve these objectives are on one hand regulatory since fiscal and pricing policies will have to be modified and certain industries will need to be provided with incentives and financing, in order to transition to a new energy system. On the other hand and equally important is 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.

How is being applied in the Electrical Sector?

In this context, we can witness the electricity grid to be totally 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.

Altogether with all these requirements, the future electrical grid will need to be able to manage a multidirectional energy that demands real time information between the utility, its suppliers, partners and customers.

Cloud Solution

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.

SCADA technologies

SCADA technologies on the other hand, highly oriented to automation and with proprietary, inflexible and inaccessible data structures, do not cover either the new needs in an optimal way either.

The solution is halfway between the Cloud and the SCADA: it is called Edge Computing.

The role of Edge Computing in the Electricity Sector

Edge Computing in electricty sector means to introduce local computing equipment in each electrical substation or Transformation Center, in order to bring data storage and processing capabilities, closer to the location it is needed; thus, improving the scalability of the solution, response times and savings in bandwidth and operational costs.

Edge Computing 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 the Electrical Substations is multiplied exponentially. The detection time improves, the reparation faults as well as the technical and non-technical quality losses are severely reduced and there is also the business opportunity to create new services and commercial offerings, based on the use of real time information for users.

Edge Computing Challenges

  • 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 maintain data and equipment cybersecure, in such a distributed and critical environment?

At Barbara IoT we are experts in connecting industrial equipment to the cloud and enabling cybsersecure intelligence at the edge. If you want to know how Barbara IoT can assist you do contact us.