Duke Energy says new sensors and ‘big data’ save millions in plant repairs
A four-year, $80 million Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) project to deploy sensors for key power plant equipment is nearing $15 million in maintenance savings for the company this year.
It is called Duke’s “Smart Generation” program. The company has put sensors on equipment such as boilers, turbines, generators, large pumps, transformers and other important power plant hardware. It is designed to avoid problems by catching them early.
“It allows us to be more and more creative in solving problems,” says Michael Reid, general manager of technical programs for Duke.
He cites a recent example. Sensors on a steam turbine noted a strange vibration. It alerted the company to a hairline crack in the rotor shaft. The company was able to replace it before it failed, saving both time and money to due to an unplanned outage if the shaft had broken during operations.
Duke started the program in 2012 and will complete it next year. When the project is complete Duke will have installed 30,000 sensors on equipment at 32 sites.
To date, it has installed about 20,000 so-called “smart sensors” about the size of a cellphone, most of them in the Carolinas. The devices monitor dozens of operating criteria for each piece of equipment they are attached to.
With readings reported every second to half a second, depending on the sensor, Duke’s control center for monitoring its far-flung plant operations gets 50,000 data points per second.
And it allows Duke to use data analytics for everything from scheduling routine maintenance — learning how to read actual wear and tear on equipment instead of relying on rough operational hour estimates for needed work — to anticipating problems rather than reacting to them.