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Keeping the lights on – being smart about power

By Andrew Strong - Last updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2016

keeping-the-lights-onPower Generation Week (11-15 December 2016 in Orlando, Florida) is the world’s largest power generation event with more than 20,000 participants from 111 countries. Topics covered will include energy storage, power generation technologies and industry trends. Cambridge Consultants is excited to be exhibiting for the first time; as we prepare for the event, we have been considering the substantial challenges currently faced by the power industry:

  • Ageing infrastructure; the average age of large power transformers in the US is 40 years (with 70% being over 25 years old)
  • Increasing environmental concerns, the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the reduction in Europe of reliance on coal and the closure of polluting power stations
  • Energy gap – ageing power stations are due to be decommissioned before replacement capacity comes on stream
  • Emergence of Electric Vehicles – this will place an increasing load on grid
  • Deregulation/decentralisation and the move towards renewables and distributed power generation will lead to:
    • Reduced ability to control generation ; output from renewables is weather dependent, and will lead to growing requirements for energy storage
    • Uncoordinated and fragmented (short-term) investment planning
    • Difficulty in synchronisation of all sources to a 50(60) Hz standard
  • Increased digitisation of utilities is leading to malicious cyber-attacks causing major power outages (g. Ukraine)

Without considered and coordinated action there is a clear risk of power outages and/or price inflation; currently the numbers just don’t add up.

As a result of the above the power industry is considering solutions and factors such as:

  • Improved asset management (lifetime and reliability) due to ever-increasing reliance (and reduced redundancy) on the grid;
  • Smart Grid approaches such as smart metering, remote control and automation
  • Condition monitoring; prognosis not diagnosis
  • Diversity of renewable energy sources to reduce disruption due to weather conditions and lower the risk of a major grid-scale failure
  • Local energy storage (e.g. Tesla home battery, use of Electric Vehicles as storage)
  • Cybersecurity
  • A 50(60)Hz standard without a centralised signal

The power industry is in a period of unprecedented change, and we’re looking forward to meeting with industry specialists at Power Gen Week to discuss what form these challenges and their solutions will take …

If you are at Power Generation Week please drop by booth 3419 for a chat.


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AuthorAndrew Strong


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