Automation Within the Power Generation Sector

A Guest Post from Gregory Miller, DO Supply

Our homes and places of work are becoming increasingly digitized and global demand for electricity is rising in response.* World Bank data shows how demand for electricity rose from 1,200 kWh (per capita consumption) in 1970 to almost 2,200 kWh in 1990 and to 3,200 kWh by 2018. This growing demand for electricity, coupled with the need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, is presenting service providers with enormous challenges, such as providing uninterrupted supplies of ‘clean’ power to households with increasingly high demands.   

Automation is one way to address the problem because it offers advantages at all stages of the electricity supply chain. For example, it reduces the production costs of solar panels, wind energy installations and other components used in renewable energy technologies. The result is that technologies like solar panels can be made more cheaply, more efficiently and made to operate more productively than using traditional methods of manufacture. 

Transitioning to 100% renewable electricity generation (e.g. in a country like Australia) is therefore made cheaper and more rapid thanks to automation. It not only helps to reduce manufacturing costs, but also enables optimized power distribution and storage, as well as maintenance and monitoring of vital equipment, such as wind turbines, solar farms and battery storage facilities. For example, automated monitoring of wind turbine gearboxes and panel arrays on large-scale solar farms can be carried out with drone-mounted sensors.

This enables electricity production to be optimized by enabling rapid responses (e.g. by detection of solar panel ‘hotspots’ or sonar detection of wind turbine equipment stress). It also enables real-time monitoring, rapid preventative maintenance and targeted repairs which are far quicker and far more cost effective than traditional forms of periodic maintenance.

The manufacture, installation and connection of renewable power systems involves millions of controllable and non-controllable components that function in a variety of ways. Its future depends on the successful application of automation because in the future, distribution systems will be significantly more complex and unpredictable. However, despite its importance, automation remains undeveloped and under-exploited. For example, by 2017 only 8% of utilities companies in the UK had launched any form of automation initiative.

Gregory Miller is a writer with DO Supply who covers Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Automation. When not writing, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing and opining about the virtues of coffee.

To learn more about the positive impacts of sustainability measures and automation, contact Telkonet at sales@ or 888-703-9398.

* “Global electricity demand rose by 4% in 2018, nearly twice as fast as overall energy demand.”