On the eve of a blizzard that would deliver punishing winds and dump more than a foot of snow on much of the northeast, those at the New York Power Authority’s monitoring and diagnostics command center looked to GE Predix software for evidence of potential problems. If any anomalies were found across assets monitored at 16 power plants and 1,400 miles of power transmission network, linemen and utility workers could fix them in the sunshine, according to Paul Tartaglia, senior vice president and chief technology officer, New York Power Authority.
When winds whip so hard they easily crack tree branches as if they were celery sticks, and temperatures barely inch above zero, being a lineman takes on a new level of grittiness. Crews work impossibly long days to restore critical power in the worst of conditions.
NYPA is leveraging IoT technology to equip and empower workers with the right information, blueprints, tools, parts and more, to solve potential problems proactively and those that are unavoidable, faster.
“By having a more engineering philosophy, then we can go out and be more like craftsmen,” said Tartaglia, who is leading the digitization efforts for the largest state public utility in the United States, and one that supplies one-quarter of the state’s electricity.
Empowering those who manage and maintain its assets with information – from the power plant operators to those on the front lines – is a central piece of NYPA’s IoT strategy. A 25,000 square foot Integrated Smart Operations Center (iSOC) in White Plains serves as a power central command center of sorts, with workers monitoring assets on GE Predix software on an 81-foot video wall, according to GE. The mix of engineers and former power plant operators who staff the center alert power plants to potential problems, offering support from the point of identification to resolution, but leaving the decision to act to the plant staff.
In just shy of a month since its official opening, Tartaglia has found that power plants are actually coming to iSOC for help with potential problems – something he attributes both to the technology itself and the deep, real-world utilities’ expertise of the iSOC staff. He pointed to its director, Rich Gaines, who joined the NYPA decades ago when he was just 18 years old. The fact that plants are asking for information is a key indicator the iSOC approach is working, according to Tartaglia.
Right now, Predix runs on-premise, but over the next two years, NYPA will build out its entire Predix implementation on the cloud (the provider of which it hasn’t yet determined) as part of its IoT strategy, according to Tartaglia.
The technology in place currently is based on GE SmartSignal, monitoring and diagnostic software from GE that enables NYPA to build digital models of individual assets, track and measure performance, and enable predictive analytics to empower use cases like predictive maintenance.
For instance, over the summer, a temperature on a motor was running higher than the software said it should run at, according to Tartaglia. After reviewing analytics, the team decided to perform a planned outage, during which they discovered a filter failed. Replacing it proactively helped avoid a potentially catastrophic failure, with the huge added benefit of having their best people look at the problem under the best professional conditions possible, according to Tartaglia.
“Say it keeps running and on the hottest day, Friday afternoon, at 3 p.m. the motor gives, and we don’t know what went wrong with it,” he said. “Rather than going from a more reactive mode we’re in a more proactive mode, which really yields us a significant benefit and avoided cost.”
The technology is the foundation for disruption – the good kind – in the power space, positioning NYPA to offer a span of services, from value-added services to customers to optimize energy usage and capital equipment, to enabling better plant security, to leveraging technology to entice the next generation of utility workers.
“I’m a big student of disruption,” Tartaglia said. “I don’t want to be the Kodak film of the next century.”