Power plants are not to be messed with. They’re incredibly important to our everyday lives, filled with energy and, most importantly, they can be dangerous. Power plants simply can’t afford to make errors, which means that maintenance and management has to be top notch. And organizing all of that work is tough — if not impossible — to do manually. So how can you handle the day-to-day operations at peak efficiency? With power plant software.
What is Power Plant Software?
Power plant software fits into the category of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). More specifically, since it’s a specialized type of asset management software and computer-aided facility management software, it helps you control your whole power plant.
In a nutshell, power plant software helps you control almost every aspect of your power plant. This includes organizing maintenance, scheduling workers and collecting various types of data. Asset management features are among the most prominent, as performing preventive maintenance is one of the most important tasks of power plant management.
The Future of Power Plant Software
Technology is advancing rapidly. No matter what the technology is — from our phones to our refrigerators to our cars — they’re all vastly superior today than they were even two years ago. The same, naturally, is true of today’s power plants. And as they evolve, so too does power plant software. With this in mind, what changes can we expect to see in the future for not only power plants, but power plant software?
Optimized Power Plant Design
The effectiveness and efficiency of any facility — from a farm to a nuclear power plant — literally starts from the ground up, aka the design of the facility. Power plant design software is more commonly integrated with power plant software now than ever before, and the trend is growing. After all, why start using software after the facility is built when you could use it throughout the entire lifecycle?
With features including 3D modeling and visualization in addition to engineering and schematics functionality, power plant design software can help optimize an efficient power plant design before it’s even built. Whether you work with coal-fired plants, thermal power plants, nuclear power plants or electric power plants, you can ensure your facility is as efficient as possible from the get-go thanks to this software.
Better Real-Time Monitoring
Nothing can replace the advantages of gathering data in real time. Without it, there’s no possibility of responding in real time or, for that matter, with any real speed. More and more power plant software vendors are adding the ability to collect real-time data, which you can use to perform in-depth analysis on the plant’s systems and processes. You can then quickly respond to any issues that you discover.
These real-time business analytics help improve safety, efficiency and revenue. They improve safety by providing information on any system malfunctions (more on this later), while they improve efficiency by highlighting slowdowns in your various day-to-day operations. When you combine these two, they lead to lower equipment downtime and quicker operations, both of which drive revenue.
A piece by Power Magazine detailed how Duke Energy is leveraging the IoT to predict equipment failure. According to the article, “Although a common perception is that equipment wears out over time, [Duke Energy GM of Technical Programs Michael] Reid said most equipment failure occurs randomly… Duke Energy has added more and more field sensors to monitor plant components, with the goal of avoiding catastrophic breakdown. It now acquires much more data than it used to, and it exploits that data to detect potential problems… Reid said thoroughly reviewing all of the data that is collected is not humanly possible, so Duke Energy has several software tools that it utilizes for the task.”
You can find the Internet of Things (IoT) applied almost everywhere nowadays, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the warehousing, manufacturing and energy sectors. Although it’s not yet an industry standard for power plants, it’s quickly becoming commonplace. In order to keep pace, power plant software can be integrated with these IoT systems, providing workers and managers with invaluable information. In addition, these systems can analyze the data to provide insights into equipment failure.
Improved Worker Safety
Along with ensuring that a power plant doesn’t completely malfunction and shut down, the biggest concern in a power plant is for the safety of your workers. As we mentioned earlier, and as you well know, working in a power plant can be dangerous. That means that every precaution has to be taken, as should every opportunity to improve safety. Today’s power plant software is providing that opportunity.
The Internet of Things is a big component in this. By monitoring the safety of your various system — including safety systems themselves — system failures are more likely to be caught beforehand, reducing the number of dangerous incidents. The Power Magazine article referenced above also explained that power plant software has the ability to analyze data in order to identify what causes safety events, leading to less downtime caused by them. In addition, power plant software can aid in meeting compliance standards, further ensuring the safety of your workers.
As we look ahead to the future of power plants and the future of power plant software, it looks a lot brighter than it did not all that long ago. There are still challenges and uncertainties ahead, especially as renewable energy continues its growth. But when armed with power plant software that provides the right features, plants will be able to improve and adapt to our ever-changing world.