Major Power Utility Embraces Remote Monitoring

Dec. 8, 2017
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) moves quickly to transform and consolidate asset monitoring in a new operations center in White Plains, N.Y.

Jigar Shah, president of Generate Capital, has mentioned many times that the biggest wealth creation opportunity for the 21st century resides in the energy industry. A big reason for this optimism is the “reboot” happening at many utilities as they start to evaluate decentralized power generation, predictive analytics, digital twin platforms and new energy sources.

One utility moving in this direction is the New York Power Authority (NYPA), guided by president and CEO Gil C. Quiniones, who is implementing a new remote monitoring strategy that allows the power organization to monitor its power and transmission assets in one central location called the Integrated Smart Operations Center (iSOC). Set for launch in December 2017, the state-of-the-art iSOC will include large video walls displaying real-time network operations, cybersecurity and physical security data from multiple NYPA assets throughout New York State.

“NYPA is going beyond what other utilities are doing,” says Richard Gaines, director of NYPA’s iSOC. “Our new monitoring facility employs a supercomputer called Advanced Grid Innovation Lab for Energy, and it can simulate the entire New York State power grid and six investor-owned utilities.”

“We’d like to sandbox scenarios, such as studying the effects of bringing in 300 MW of offshore wind power and its influences, if any, on our interconnections with the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland Interconnection, the New England Independent System Operator, the New York Independent System Operator and our neighboring agency, the Long Island Power Authority,” Gaines says.

Though sandbox scenarios might be here shortly, the first phase of NYPA’s initiative connected its assets to iSOC, starting with plants operating gas and steam turbines.

“We started with plants that had data available in their distributed control systems,” Gaines says. iSOC began remote monitoring its 500 MW combined-cycle power plant in December 2016, and other fossil-fuel powered generation assets went online by spring of 2017.

GE’s Predix-based SmartSignal and Asset Performance Management (APM) software systems enable remote monitoring and asset modeling at NYPA. This system consolidates real-time asset, field inspection, historical and operational data into one central location.

NYPA starts the process by modeling assets—including fossil-fuel, pump storage hydro or transmission plants—and then mapping them all in GE’s software.

“We work with the [GE] Industrial Performance & Reliability Center to fine-tune these models and create active advisories,” Gaines says. The condition monitoring software compares predicted asset behavior, using trend chart graphics to real-time asset signals in different line colors to show asset anomalies.

With the data monitoring architectures in place, iSOC has several positions devoted to real-time visibility for a variety of assets and systems: physical security, network operations, cybersecurity and, of course, asset health monitoring. Information management is a large component, and Gaines has six positions for just monitoring assets, be it power generation or transmission equipment.

“For example, our data systems administrator is not monitoring assets, but will be looking at data governance,” Gaines says. “This position was created to administer tags with scale in mind, and proactively manage data points as the company grows.”

The iSOC identifies cases and sends weekly reports to the local plant. Regional supervisors, operations managers and mechanical engineers from a particular plant will then review cases remotely with iSOC, and this process is documented in a secure content server in NYPA’s SharePoint application.

Besides plants, the NYPA initiative is tackling transmission assets in the next phase, and this also coincides with an enterprise-wide sensor deployment program.

With this program, NYPA will prioritize transmission assets and sensor types to do a lifecycle cost and health analysis using the APM application. APM allows NYPA to use streaming data from the deployed sensors and static data from Maximo and SAP, the utility’s enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning systems, respectively.

NYPA’s iSOC will now be able to monitor transmission substations, high-voltage transformers and circuit breakers, for example, to examine dissolved gas analysis (DGA) and sulfur hexafluoride density data. Typically, DGA can only be accessed by the local device at a substation site. With iSOC operations, NYPA can monitor gas concentration levels for transformers and circuit breakers as well, and provide the asset owner with an analysis report if conditions change.

“The idea is to network all of those online DGA analyzers back to a central historian, so that data can come through the business network and go into our asset health center for anomaly detection,” Gaines says.

The utility is looking to have this phase completed by Q4 of 2018.

The iSOC and NYPA show how utilities are beginning to visualize a successful transition to whatever new energy trends emerge.

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