Fundamentals boosts AI and ML profile with Powerline buy
Fundamentals has bought Powerline Technologies for an undisclosed fee, strengthening its big data and ML offering to network operators and meet future electrification demands.
Powerline's product range covers smart maintenance and accurate detection, classification and location of faults and power quality events on LV and MV underground distribution networks, helping DNOs reduce maintenance costs, customer minutes lost and increasing network operational efficiency, according to its website.
As network operators experience significant costs and customer outages due to faults on underground cables, they are looking for ways to run more reliable networks at lower cost.
Fundamentals' AI-powered asset management software locates faults before they happen, analysing voltage waveforms and identifying energy fault signatures on unusual underground cable events.
This proof-of-concept ‘SYNAPS’ project was backed by Ofgem’s innovation funding and is one of few Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) projects to be taken through to a Phase 2 project.
The project successfully enabled engineers to use a library of big data drawn from networks, in conjunction with AI, ML and deep learning, to predict and locate faults on network infrastructure before they cause device or fuse failures. Data collected in the ‘SYNAPS’ project including current, voltage and fault waveforms has been shared with all DNOs.
Jon Hiscock, Managing Director of Fundamentals, said as part of its five-year plan, it is committed to investing in unique AI problem-solving software and techniques to solve the most complex electricity grid challenges in the transition to green energy.
"Our heritage and industry expertise coupled with Powerline’s technology enables Network Operators to advance their strategic imperatives, ultimately lower costs and secure the energy we all rely on every day," he said.
Accelerating solar transition with robotics and automation
Professor Tadhg O’Donovan, Head of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, shares his views on how robotics and automation can deliver a real impact in leading the Middle East’s transition to solar energy and in advancing the overall sustainability agenda
As the world grapples with diminishing supplies of oil and the need to reduce carbon emissions, the adoption of disruptive technologies such as robotics and automation can be an important catalyst for the proliferation of renewable energy. Current applications and research show that robotics and automation help simplify the processes involved in support of renewable energy generation, especially for solar energy sources, which results in increased productivity, and cost savings.
Solar panel placement
Robots and automation can help unload and place solar panels onto racks at huge utility-scale sites. Thanks to outdoor, autonomous robotic technology, the process for solar field assembly can be made more efficient. Moreover, due to the fragile nature of solar cells and wafers, high-speed impact robots are more suitable and gentler than manual handling which helps ensure higher throughputs with better yield. Robots support solar construction crews, not replace them which means utility-scale contractors are able to reduce large amounts of repetitive tasks and improve productivity, bolster worker safety, and produce more MegaWatt-hours, faster.
Solar panel cleaning and maintenance
Crucial tasks such as removing dust from solar cells can be automated with the help of self-cleaning robots which is otherwise risky for people. Dust removal is critical in high dust-density regions such as the Middle East to maximise the irradiance incident on the panel and to ensure the solar panels provide maximum power output and energy yield. Water-free autonomous cleaning system can save billions of litres of water over the lifetime of a plant situated in arid regions.
Manufacturing of solar power systems
Robots in the PV manufacturing process make a significant contribution due to their ability to reduce costs considerably and enhancing precision and accuracy when compared with human intervention. Manufacturers can deploy robots and automation to make smarter and swifter production decisions, which ultimately increase precision, reduces the cost of production, and improves productivity. Silicon ingot, silicon modules, solar cells, and silicon wafers are some examples of delicate components that can be produced with high precision through robotic automation.
Integrating robotics into the renewable energy industry comes with a few of challenges too. One of the largest challenges being the power grid itself which is primarily designed to transport energy from large, centralized power plants fuelled by non-renewable sources such as natural gas and oil. Hence, the current power grid requires an overhaul before solar and other forms of distributed renewable energy can be truly integrated as a viable source of power.
Fresh power grid designs
Propelling the energy industry into the future requires fresh approaches to the power grid design. The answer lies with smart power grids that can integrate various renewable energy sources and help utility companies achieve greater efficiency and sustainability.
An increase in the integration of robotics and automation in the renewable energy industry could lead to an eventual total shift from other sources of energies such as oil to greener alternatives such as solar. Finally, this will spur the creation of “jobs of the future” – especially in high-growth data, digital and robotics engineering.