GE unveils Digital Power Plant in anticipation of greater energy demands

Defining itself as a "true software company," GE is leaning heavily on its burgeoning Industrial Internet cloud for connected devices, sensors and apps, collectively referred to as the Internet of Things.


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SAN FRANCISCO--- General Electric is preparing for the long haul with its latest fusion of big data, software and renewable energy sources.

Amid its Minds and Machines summit on Tuesday, the energy and appliance conglomerate unveiled its new Digital Power Plant software and hardware suite for tapping into individual machine data for analyzing, dispatching and overall management of a plant's power resources.

Altogether, GE posited those results will produce a "digital twin" for an entire physical power plant complex, enabling industrial developers and operators to deploy homegrown and customized apps for specific functions at scale.

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GE boasted it pooled approximately 100 million hours of power plant data in order to build its Digital Power Plant technologies in response to and anticipation of exploding energy and data demands over the next several years.

Citing Harbor Research and GE's own estimates, there will be roughly seven billion devices feeding the energy value chain by 2020, generating 24 exabytes of data. GE predicted at least half of that data will be stored and analyzed through the cloud, whether they be on public, private or hybrid infrastructures.

Beyond those sheer astronomical figures, GE has a few more motivations for launching the Digital Power Plant as well as a new Digital Wind Farm model for customizing turbine operation to unique farming locations and weather patterns.

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As it stands now, most power plants and wind farms run on archaic and overly complicated infrastructures that lack modern software applications for maintaining efficiency and costs, as GE argued in a whitepaper also published on Tuesday, Powering the Future: Leading the Digital Transformation of the Power Industry.

Furthermore, there are currently 1.3 billion people worldwide without access to electric power, according to company research. At the same time, GE expects global electricity demands to grow by as much as 30 percent over the next decade.

Defining itself as a "true software company," GE will be leaning heavily on software as well as its Predix operating system for its burgeoning Industrial Internet cloud for connected devices, sensors and apps, collectively referred to now as the Internet of Things.

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"The first step of the Industrial Internet maturity is to connect all critical assets in the energy value chain," according to the GE paper. "This is not a trivial task as we are referring to nearly hundreds of discrete components with at least a dozen different communications and networking protocols."

GE said it expects to see $6 billion in software revenue alone this year, blossoming to $15 billion by 2020.

In order to achieve those targets, GE is weaving all of those elements together with a digital grid for managing software and distributed energy resources while bolstering outage responses. GE posited that such a backbone held up by software can better recognize market pricing and local energy demand forecasts while controlling and stabilizing distributed resources in a coordinated manner.

Beyond software, GE is looking to promote its Digital Power Plant and other innovations for tying in improvements for decarbonizing energy sources and integrating renewable energy sources.

The General Electric Digital Power Plant is schedule to launch on Wednesday.

Images via GE

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