Designing connectivity to supercharge efficiency in the energy sector
Digital Transformation in the Energy Sector
There is mounting pressure on energy companies to evolve, using digital to curb inefficiency within the current system. There are several areas where this can yield significant benefits. Firstly, with renewable energy generation, take offshore wind for example. By investing in Industrial IoT sensors, enhanced monitoring can give insights into how efficiency can be increased, alert to maintenance issues to reduce downtime and give better control of the energy created. Beyond this, digitalization also has the potential to enable better grid management and reduce wasted energy.
The energy crisis, coupled with the global environmental need to reduce emissions is pushing digital transformation to the top of the agenda for the industry. Over the next few years, we will see huge strides made to realize significant benefits for the industry and wider global community.
Why is DRS relevant?
It is clear to see why digitalization in the energy sector is a key issue in the current climate. However, what does this have to do with DRS, as mentioned in the title of the article? The applications that will help to transform the energy sector rely on constant connectivity. To make use of sensors, robots, AI, almost any advanced technology with a proven track record for driving efficiency needs connectivity and delivering that can be a challenge.
Over the past 18 months we have written a few articles on Distributed Radio Systems (DRS). As the name suggests it is a distributed system, where the distributed modules include both an antenna and radiohead. This allows it to support 5G, flexible capacity scaling and importantly in the context of deploying for the energy sector – be easily installed in challenging and hard to reach spaces. Before the energy industry can truly benefit from the digitalization it is under pressure to deliver, it needs a connectivity foundation to underpin the applications.
How does that work in practice?
So far, we have looked at the topic at a high level, but let’s drill down into what that looks like. Grid monitoring is a key focus for the energy sector at the moment and a good example of DRS in action. This application uses a huge number of sensors gathering information which can be fed back to a control architecture, analyzed and used to balance load, minimize wastage, ensure consistent service. DRS is perfect for implementing the connectivity side of things for this application; it is flexible and can be tailored to meet the installation challenged of delivering connectivity to such huge infrastructure. However, the way we approach DRS at RFS offers an additional benefit. When we connect critical infrastructure, as in this scenario, the connectivity infrastructure must be ultra-resilient. Steps must be taken to mitigate the risks of that system going down either because of poor connectivity or loss of power to the comms equipment. At RFS we have specialized in designing systems using hybrid power and fiber cable to maintain connectivity needed to support mission critical applications such as this – you can read more about how we tackle that in our blog on designing mission critical systems. As the energy sector looks to invest in Industry 4.0 solutions, it is crucial that they support advanced technologies with highly robust communication systems as consistency will be key to unlocking the full potential.
We have looked at just one example of implementing connectivity infrastructure to drive the benefits of digitalization in the energy sector. However, from ensuring the performance of renewable generation, minimizing waste in traditional energy production, or managing the storage and distribution, the same principle of needing consistent and robust connectivity applies. Delivered in the right way DRS solutions can provide this, along with offering additional benefits from easy installation to scalability. While the energy industry must respond to the pressure for improvement, they have to ensure the connectivity that provides the foundation of virtually all Industry 4.0 innovations is futureproof and resilient enough to suit its long-term needs.