Digital Twins for US Combined-Cycle Power Plants?

Long term forecasting for electric utilities is very difficult in this era.  But there is an important change in this year’s forecast for electric power generation from the Energy Information Administration (EIA, part of the US Department of Energy).  For the last 10+ years, capacity factors of US combined-cycle generating units have trended higher (“capacity factor” is a term for generating capacity utilization).  US power generation has shifted from coal toward a combination of gas-fired combined cycle (GFCC) and renewables.  The latest EIA forecast calls for this utilization trend to reverse and for GFCC utilization to drop during the next 10 years (see chart).  This will have major implications for owner-operators of these plants.

combined-cycle power plants Utilization%20of%20US%20Fossil-fired%20Generating%20Capacity.JPG

More Frequent Cycles Means More Difficult Operations

These lower capacity factors will cause big difficulties in the operations of these units.  The major change will be more frequent cycling between hot shutdown and full load operation.   GFCC units will probably be called on to ramp up and down their load on a daily schedule.  It’s reasonable to expect that units which now cycle 1-5 times a month may need to cycle 30 or more times per month, and without an increase in support personnel.  This would seem to be a headache for the plant’s owner-operators.

On September 12, I’ll be participating in a webinar with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on this topic.  The webinar is called AI and Digital Twins Powering Plant Efficiency and Reliability.  I’ll be talking about these new EIA forecasts, and TCS will discuss their recently released “IP2” power plant solution.   IP2 includes unit analytics using a Digital Twin.  The solution has been deployed at several generating units worldwide, and TCS believes it will be helpful to utilities as their plants operate in this more challenging power landscape of the future.

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About the Author:

Harry Forbes

Harry is ARC’s lead analyst for the Distributed Control System (DCS) market. In addition, ARC leverages Harry’s utility expertise in its coverage of Smart Grid, industrial networking, networking and communication standards, and the electric power vertical industry. His research topics include the DCS integration and architecture, Smart Grid, Smart Metering, energy storage, industrial wireless, industrial Ethernet and emerging network technologies.

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