We´ ve all heard it:
“We need to change the way we produce energy.”
“The energy transition is happening as we speak.”
“Clean and renewable energy is the future.”
But what does changing our energy systems mean, and how on earth does OPC UA fit into the equation?
A very short history of unclean energy
The energy system we are trying to move away from is a legacy of the industrial revolution, driven by fossil fuels. Coal and gas were burnt to make electricity, and oil and gasoline to run internal combustion engines for different purposes.
At the time, in the early and mid- 1800s, nobody knew how the fumes from these energy sources would pollute and destroy our environment 150 years later.
And here we are, today, with this legacy breathing down our necks; the energy systems that run on unclean and finite resources.
We need to change these energy systems, and we need to change them quickly.
A quick look at how much clean energy we need
The heroes of the energy transition are the ones building new, clean energy assets.
The current energy system produces about 25 trillion kWh, of which about 10 trillion kWh is clean.
Electrification of transportation and other processes requires additional production
High living standards for everyone and providing a stable, clean energy supply require even more clean energy.
In addition, high-density fuels need to be replaced with hydrogen.
Lastly, we need energy for carbon capture and storage in sectors where we cannot cut carbon production in other ways, like agriculture.
If the planet is to stay habitable, we must build this new, clean energy system to replace the current, unclean one by 2050. It has to be twelve times larger than our existing renewable energy system.
But is there a plan to cope with the enormous changes needed for survival?
And how can we help?
We at Prediktor have been asking ourselves these questions and have found some alarming yet optimistic answers.
A feasible pathway to solving climate change.
Rystad Energy has made a mathematical model with projections into different future scenarios.
In a scenario of 1.6 degrees warming, we are at net zero in 2056 with no more than 660 Gt additional emissions compared to today's levels.
In this scenario, where renewable supply chains increase yearly build-capacity significantly,
Five technologies are central:
- Solar goes from 200 GW last year (2021) to 1000 GW by 2030.
- Wind increases from 60 GW last year (2021) to 300 GW by 2030.
- CCUS grows from negligible last year (2021) to 3 Gt by 2050.
- Batteries will grow from less than 1 TWh storage capacity last year to 20 TWh by 2040.
- Hydrogen production will increase from 70 Mtpa to 350 Mtpa in 2050.
(Rystad Energy presented the numbers at Rystad Energy Week 2021)
Can the clean technologies be scaled sufficiently?
Historically, e.g. solar has scaled enormously.
Yearly additional solar capacity grew 5x:
On this background, it is believable that solar can be scaled five-fold by 2030, although supply chains will be stressed.
We don't have much time to scale solar and wind!
What does building 1000 GW solar plants per year mean in practice?
Benban - the world´s largest solar park when built-in 2019 in the Egyptian desert, had a capacity of 1,8 GW - almost the same as the nearby Aswan hydropower dam. The size of Benban is 6.2 km x 6 km, visible from outer space.
By 2030 we must build 500 Benban-sized solar parks every year to reach our goals.
What does building 300 GW of wind farm capacity per year mean in practice?
Dogger bank, the world's largest offshore wind farm, is still under construction.
Located in the North Sea, it will have a capacity of 3.6 GW and will be able to supply 5 million UK homes with their electricity demand.
The facility consists of 277 wind turbines, each the size of the Eiffel tower, and covers about 40x40 km - an area similar to Greater London.
By 2030 we must build the order of 100 Dogger Bank-sized wind farms every year.
Today, renewables outcompete fossil energy production when it comes to cost.
Wind and solar are, at the moment, the cheapest form of energy production to build; they are three times more affordable than building new coal plants and four times cheaper than building new nuclear plants, and almost half of building new gas plants.
In this scenario - why is OPC UA important?
In this world of rapidly changing technologies and a renewable energy market that is becoming very competitive, continuous optimisation of asset utilisation is essential across portfolios.
Portfolios, I might add, are becoming ever more diversified, with hybridisation of assets and a need for integration of new assets and new technologies into existing portfolios.
Renewable asset management will continue to be a dynamic and evolving field in the following decades and will be increasingly automated. The ability to onboard and adopt new methods and technologies is essential. Your ability to onboard innovations correlates to your ability to take down costs yearly and stay competitive.
Examples of new technologies currently underway:
Virtual asset management
The ability to onboard new innovations is inhibited by non-standard digital interfaces towards the equipment and assets.
Suppliers of technology are diversified across the globe.
Typically each supplier will set up and expose a different data stream based on different protocols and different data contexts and semantics.
Choosing standardisation based on the supplier is a potential remedy but brings with it a lock-in with specific suppliers and would be difficult on a global scale.
Integration hell becomes a reality, and each new piece of technology must be manually integrated into the diversified data streams.
N new technologies and M different assets cause N x M manual integrations.
Establishing local SCADA and a discipline of choice can mend the situation but will cause an equal lock-in with SCADA suppliers as mentioned above regarding systems.
This would also not be a solution when consolidating other assets into a portfolio, bringing integrated operations under one roof.
The solution to the evolving data integration challenges is OPC UA
Let´s use Solar assets as an example.
At each site, you will find more or less the same equipment types:
Energy- and power metre
Module mounting structure
PV Module String Set
This knowledge makes it possible to create an information model where you define a set of entity types and their relationship. This is where OPC UA comes into the picture, as it is the only existing real-time protocol that can host any information model.
This information model can be used across your portfolio on all the different data streams to get a unified digital surface for the different plants. Contextualisation of new assets with the standard information model leads to each data stream coming through a standardised context across the portfolio of assets.
Integration of new technology becomes more like Plug&Play, and also, using these models will future-proof your assets, as any new technology can be brought into the model and contextualised equally.
Also, using an industry-standard based information model, consolidation of asset portfolios under one operational roof from originally different asset owners will be much more realistic and benefit from operating at scale with the larger portfolio operators.
Prediktor’s part in the energy transition
We all have a significant challenge in achieving the energy transition, and we all have our small part to play.
Assisting with the implementation of standardised, contextualised datastreams and future-proofing of assets so that renewable energy portfolio owners avoid vendor lock-in, avoid integration hell and avoid diminishing efficiency and competitiveness is Prediktor’s contribution to the future of clean energy.
Please share your thoughts, and don´t hesitate to contact us to hear how we can help!