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Picture everyday highway traffic. When vehicles move along at the same speed, the traffic is predictable and flows a lot easier. But changing the speed, direction, and variety of vehicles can easily create gridlock.
A similar pattern of disorder is unfolding in the electrical grid system. Today’s grid is teeming with complexities. A new landscape filled with unpredictable events and load requirements is creating the need for new capabilities.
Climate events increase the risk of lasting power outages and damage to already aging infrastructure. Smart buildings, city infrastructure, and residential homes, equipped with solar panels, are creating two-way traffic—consuming power while also generating electricity that flows back into the grid. And the electrification of everything, including vehicles, means increased unpredictability of demand and loads.
Advanced Distribution Management Systems Microservices Empower Agility
This new distributed energy landscape is keeping utilities operators up at night and is making grid visibility a valuable currency, says Carlos Mora, Grid Control Product Manager at Minsait, an Indra company. Managing decentralized generation and consumption of electricity necessitates increased transparency of grid operations through advanced distribution management systems (ADMS), he adds.
Minsait’s modular ADMS solutions deliver the much-needed transparency and agility that utilities need in the form of microservices, Mora says. These microservices enable the generation of business solutions in the form of a suite of small applications, each executing its own process autonomously but in coordination with the others.
Minsait offers a whole suite of modular microservices applications—from grid optimization, monitoring and performance to demand forecast and more. Many of the company’s microservice solutions operate in the cloud and utilities can pick from a menu of desirable options, suited to the biggest challenges they face. Bite-size microservices offer an additional advantage: They allow utilities to apportion financial resources where they’re needed most.
Minsait offers a whole suite of modular #microservices applications—from #GridOptimization, monitoring and performance to demand forecast and more. @IndraCompany via @insightdottech
Modular ADMS in Action
A European utility, for example, had to improve their fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR) capabilities, especially since revenues are directly tied to the number of outages: The greater the number of outages, the less the revenue. Instead of upgrading the entire ADMS, Minsait came up with the solution of upgrading only the FLISR module, which could operate in parallel along with the main system. With the modular solution, the utility was able to decrease the number of times the system was in permanent fault (out of service for more than three minutes).
Mora has been pleasantly surprised at customer willingness to embrace bite-size modular microservices. “When we are breaking something into pieces that has been traditionally monolithic, especially when it’s dealing with critical infrastructure, it’s reasonable to be afraid, but we have seen utilities open to these sorts of solutions,” Mora says. After all, a modular approach to ADMS helps deliver efficiencies that utilities are looking for without having to rip and replace entire systems.
AI and the Grid
A modern ADMS does a lot more: Much like popular apps divert traffic to side roads in the case of high congestion, the ADMS can change the “topology” of the grid to accommodate rapidly fluctuating supply and demand conditions.
The underlying assumption is that the grid is capable of handling these varying loads and demands; it just needs help in diverting that traffic so no one section buckles under pressure. The monitoring of loads to ensure smooth operations is also becoming more dynamic: It used to be that grids did a calibration check every hour, but now that window has narrowed to a mere 15 minutes, Mora points out.
Such rapid orchestration calls for autonomous operations under the direction of AI. Intel empowers Minsait to conduct AI inference at the edge using the Intel® OpenVINO™ toolkit.
“You need to have a certain level of grid automation so that those applications can not only take decisions but actually operate the grid autonomously,” Mora says. “There’s a lot of data being aggregated that needs to be analyzed and optimized, which is what AI does best. AI is able to predict more accurately, and in real time, what customer demand or electricity generation will do to loads. It’s definitely the way to go to improve forecasting.”
When handling a lot of consumer data, cybersecurity is a concern for business operations. “The Intel® Trusted Platform is the answer to secure the identity of the elements that participate in grid operation (Identity of Things). This secures communication between distributed devices that are prone to cyberattacks,” Mora says.
The decentralized grid is an essential part of sustainability. “Most of our solutions can lead to a greener tomorrow in the sense that they allow for more renewable energy to flow into the grid,” Mora says. And using an AI-based ADMS system with modular microservices enables utilities to be prepared for the complexities of the future.