Nuclear plant spawns a digital twin: GE Predix use case | #WomenInTech

Susan Landal

Nuclear power plants operate in many of the 50 U.S. states, and these facilities are responsible for approximately 20 percent of our nation’s electricity. There are many concerns about nuclear energy, and government regulation safeguards the industry. With a national set of objectives to ensure the safety of the 3 million people living near nuclear plants, innovation is a constant.

Exelon Corp., the nation’s largest utility, serving 10 million customers, will partner with General Electric to use the Internet of Things technology to improve safety and efficiency. The companies will use the GE Predix platform to find innovative solutions for today’s complicated energy issues. The companies will test and build Software as a Service applications using Exelon as a use case to develop new opportunities for the energy market.

This week, Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick), host of theCUBE, from the SiliconANGLE Media team, attended the GE Minds + Machines event at Pier 48 in San Francisco, CA, to learn about the latest technology in the energy industry. Susan Landahl, chief operating officer of Fleet Operations at Exelon Generation Company, LLC, joined Frick on theCUBE to discuss the technology and how it is leveraging GE Predix to improve safety and efficiency.

This week, theCUBE highlights Susan Landahl in our Women in Technology feature. With a background in engineering and operations, Landahl oversees innovation initiatives for the nuclear division of Exelon, and the GE Predix collaboration is part of her role.

Predicting failure

Nuclear energy is a complex technology itself, so when Exelon saw the opportunity to draw additional efficiency for output, the focus was on safety and reliability. While the company performed at 93 to 94 percent efficiency, Landahl believes there is always room for improvement.

“Can we collect a lot of data? Can we use it to be even more reliable, even more efficient with the people who run our plants and make their jobs easier, as well as make the output of their work more effective? In nuclear, it’s really more around efficiency, and we are the lowest cost generator in the country, but we are always looking to be better,” Landahl remarked.

Initially, the companies ran five different test pilots across business units, including nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar and natural gas facilities to find use cases to improve reliability and performance. Landahl stated that during the process, the company recognized the real value and saw potential opportunities for the future.

“Being able to predict events and … the failure of a piece of equipment, before it actually fails, and go in and fix it ahead of time … when you think about all of those possibilities, that’s the next big step for us to continue our improvement.”

The digital twin

Exelon’s boosted ability to predict failures is thanks to GE Predix, the software layer collecting and analyzing sensor data from commercial machines, vehicles and operators. With this industrial-strength data, Exelon has developed what it calls its “digital twin,” enabling real-time insight into the performance and possible failure of their machines.

“When you talk about the equipment at the plant, the idea is you can create this virtual twin that’s made of electrons instead of iron and steel but can capture the information that the actual piece of equipment contains and sees and uses it to make decisions,” Landahl explained.

GE is using this technology to create, test and build equipment in a virtual environment to optimize the asset over its lifetime. The dedication to innovation is central to GE’s collaboration with Landahl’s team, and gives Exelon a unique opportunity to operationalize innovative processes in safety and efficiency.

“We want to be there 24/7 to make sure that we’re providing the electricity that our customers need and that we are doing it safely and reliably day-in and day-out,” Landahl explained. “If we can be more efficient along the way, we’re going to enter in these kinds of partnerships to do that. It can be a complex business but … we will figure it out as we learn these new technologies,” she concluded.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of GE Minds + Machines.

Photo by SiliconANGLE