T&M: Critical Role in Growing Power Demand

by Gaurav Bawa, Senior Vice President, WIKA India

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The World Economic Situation and Prospects report released by United Nations (UN) predicts that the Indian economy will remain resilient in its growth and is expected to expand by 5.8 percent in 2023 and 6.7 percent in 2024, supported by robust domestic demand. Increasing economic activity and the trend of returning to the physical office after Covid-19 will continue to drive the demand for power from all sectors, including manufacturing, services, agriculture, and new age set-ups like data centres. In 2022, India’s power demand grew by about 8 percent, which is nearly double the pace of the entire Asia Pacific region, reaching more than 149.7 terawatt-hours (TWh) from the previous year. Additionally, in the first two months of 2023, demand has jumped by over 10 percent compared to the previous year.

Power is one of the most critical components of infrastructure, crucial for the economic growth and welfare of nations. Thus, an adequate power supply is essential for the sustained growth of the Indian economy. Despite being the third-largest producer and consumer of electricity worldwide, with an installed power capacity of 411.64 GW as of January 31, 2023, there is an impending shortage expected in the coming months.

To accommodate this increasing power demand and create a smart power sector with dynamic generation capacity, efficient transmission and a modern distribution system, Grid Modernisation has been under discussion. As the process of upgrading the electricity grid begins, the need for efficient test and measurement instrumentation will increase.

Impact of Power Sector on T&M Growth

A modern and smart power transmission system will boast  features such as real-time monitoring and automated operation of the grid, automated data-based situational assessment and the capability to bear an increased share of renewable capacity in the power mix. Additionally, the system should integrate features like enhanced utilization of transmission capacity, greater resilience against cyber-attacks and natural disasters and a reduction in forced outages through self-correcting systems, among others.

Smart T&M equipment will play a vital role in making each of these principles a reality, as these parameters can only function efficiently through continuous smart testing and data-based prediction. As electrical assets such as transformers, transmission lines, switch yards, storage, motors, and cables are used to set up modern systems, smart T&M will  help power utilities operate with enhanced proficiency. State-of-the-art T&M instrumentation ensures minimum downtime and fewer outages through predictive and preventive maintenance.

Power engineering involves the adoption of identified technological solutions like smart temperature, pressure and level measuring instruments and the establishment of benchmark performance levels to build a robust and modern transmission network in the country. The instrumentation need to be versatile enough to be implemented in all fields of power generation,  from large-scale power plants (e.g. coal, gas, nuclear, hydro power) and peak-load electricity generation plants (e.g. gas turbine power plants) to decentralised systems (CHP plants, wind power stations, biogas plants).

Varied Implementation of T&M Instruments

Centralized Remote Monitoring through smart switchgear, Operation of Substations including SCADA, Flexible AC Transmission devices (FACTs), Dynamic Line Loading system (DLL), Wide Area Measurement System (WAMS) using PMUs and data analytics, Hybrid AC / HVDC system, Predictive maintenance technique using AI/ML algorithms, HTLS Conductors, Process Bus based Protection Automation and Control GIS/Hybrid Substation, Cyber Security, Energy Storage System and Drones & Robots in construction/inspection of transmission assets are just a few examples of the digitised power sector. Digitised asset protection, ensured by smart T&M instruments, is empowered with modern sensors that constantly communicate with a data centre  analysing the transmitted values and alerting for human intervention if a critical threshold is crossed. Specially developed algorithms calculate trends  from the measured data, enabling management to predict the future and shift from reactive to proactive maintenance strategy.

Aging O-rings and contaminated or damaged surface seals in switchgear are considered to be the most common causes of leakages. Emitted SF6 gas not only affects the atmosphere but its loss also reduces the insulating and extinguishing properties of the remaining gas. Continued leakage ultimately leads to plant and power failure, and possibly damage to subsequent assets. Humidity entering the gas compartment significantly reduces the quality of the SF6, causing permeation through seals or rubber hoses, leakage and improper gas handling. Humidity in SF6 gas has serious consequences for its protective properties. It requires smart T&M to measure the volume and density of the gas and to react immediately to such situations. Similarly, monitored values of temperature, humidity, and partial discharges help provide instant alertness and immediate handling of any unforeseen incidents.

Future Ready Solutions

Whether a complete digital monitoring system – from sensor to cloud dashboard- or suitable system modules for local integration, the solution today needs to be smart and customized. Customers are looking for more modular, plug & play systems for easy integration with the established infrastructure.

The combination of smart technology and digital measurement data supports digital transformation in the fields of conditional monitoring and alarming, asset tracking, predictive maintenance and process optimization. Thus, the very usage of connected and communicating machines depend on T&M instrumentation. With Industry 4.0 being adopted by the power industry at every level, the T&M sector is also focusing on intensive research and design to remain future-ready. Leveraging global standards for product design of test and measurement equipment and end-to-end solutions will drive the homogenization of quality products,  further ensuring the safety and security of IIoT-enabled power sector.

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