Asset Management in Utilities – part 3: Improving Asset Efficiency and Health with Simulation-Based Digital Twins
There are quite a few definitions available for Digital Twins and the term is used very often these days. In my view, a digital twin should include a physical engineering model, like the one of a wind turbine shown in the picture below.
These kind of digital twins are also called simulation-based digital twins. With them you can define virtual sensors, that provide data in real-time. In the case of the wind turbine the virtual sensors measure the forces on the turbine. The forces are indicated by the color coding and the sensor values are shown in detail below the image of the wind turbine. They allow, for example, to determine the health and forecast the expected lifetime of the turbine.
At the SAP Conference for Utilities in July Benedicte Piret from ENGIE Energia Chile presented an especially interesting example how simulation-based digital twins are used to improve the efficiency of a solar plant. In her use case the expected output of the solar plant is constantly calculated based on the digital twin as well as on weather information. If the generated electricity deviates from the expected generation, this indicates an issue with the plant. Thus, for example, a broken fuse was quickly detected, whereas up to now it would have only been detected with the next regular inspection. This way the overall production loss of the solar plant is lowered by 11%. Moreover, inspection costs are lowered as fewer inspections are required due to constant monitoring and predictive maintenance. If you want to learn more about this project watch the recording of the presentation or read this article, that has recently been published in Forbes. There you also learn about the effect of unexpected rain in the desert.
To run the simulation-based digital twin ENGIE uses SAP Enterprise Product Development (EPD). As the name indicates, SAP EPD was originally developed for manufacturing companies. But it has some great capabilities, that make it very valuable for utilities as well. This is especially true for leveraging physical engineering models (These engineering models were, by the way, formerly supported by SAP Predictive Engineering Insights and even earlier by a solution called SAP FEDEM).
Besides for wind turbines and solar plants, SAP EPD has been used for simulation-based digital twins of many other assets. This includes pipelines, transformers and batteries, and, as this video shows, for bridges. In this example the digital twin helped to prevent a critical situation.
I am convinced that we will see many other use cases and quite some benefits in the near future when we further explore the possibilities of the simulation-based digital twins. Perhaps you have some good ideas already?