Digitalisation and the changing face of power management
Digital transformation is nothing new, but its effect on the entire electrical supply chain is profound.
Today, the proposition for investing in intelligent building technologies for energy management is only part of the conversation, according to research firm Navigant Research. “Customers are looking for solutions that translate a complete data profile of their facilities, systems and operations into business metrics. The result is an evolving technology landscape.”
Digitalisation has enabled more enhanced, intelligent and efficient power infrastructure, which is driving smarter control, usage and energy efficiency across the electrical power chain, according to John Atherton*, General Manager – Power Quality, Australia and New Zealand, Eaton. Organisations providing power quality solutions will play a crucial role in ensuring reliable power and power availability all along this chain from data processing and storage, right through to data collection, said Atherton.
The first step is to efficiently collect the data, then importantly, draw value from this data through analytics and the application of data science, according to Atherton. This allows more value to be provided back to the client through better availability, efficiency and reduced operational costs.
“This is a key reason why we are investing in new monitoring software for our UPS systems and building intelligent circuit breakers for control and monitoring.”
5G and the power grid
The key technology evolution that will impact growth is 5G, as it will enable more efficient connectivity, said Atherton. “Therefore, driving more distributed demand at the ‘Edge’ and demand at the central core of the ‘Cloud’ (large data centres) as more data is stored and processed, and fundamentally more services are provided.”
Another growth area is the evolution of the electrical grid, according to Atherton. As more diverse energy sources are integrated to make a more efficient and cleaner electrical grid, this evolution will cause grid instability and potential reliability issues in the short term. When grid reliability is impacted, power quality solutions such as UPS systems will be required to mitigate this risk.
“Evolution in battery technology will also play a key role in both 5G and the grid, with technologies like lithium ion batteries providing solutions for both distributed power quality applications at the edge and for larger scale grid stability. Eaton is investing its R&D on how these technologies can effectively and safely be integrated into power quality solutions of the future.”
Top growth markets
The top five industry sectors in terms of demand for power quality solutions are:
- Telecommunications — Customised DC power quality solutions to support critical communications during the rollout of 5G across Australia.
- Data centres — Integrated, intelligent and efficient power chain to support the growth of large critical data centres which support the cloud.
- Infrastructure — Big investment in intelligent infrastructure to drive efficiency on the east coast of Australia as city population rises. Power dependent technology and applications will require solutions with ruggedised design for harsh environments and higher IP-rated qualities, ensuring safe and reliable operation of transport systems.
- Education — IoT adoption and digital education. Eaton recently installed a micro data centre and UPS solution at Coomera Anglican College to support its new digital learning infrastructure including a 360-degree image projection space called the Imaginarium.
- Industrial — Automation across many industrial sectors including mining, agriculture and manufacturing, driving a need for ruggedised cabinets and UPS to ensure connectivity. Eaton recently worked with Serverworks in New Zealand to design a compact telecommunications system with four hours of back-up power to keep communications online during disaster recovery operations in the Pacific Islands.
While Eaton continues to witness strong demand from traditional markets, IoT is creating new opportunities outside of traditional applications such as aquaculture, where automation is used for monitoring of water, feed, temperatures and filtration. “Without power quality solutions close to the point of automation, these aquafarms stand to lose whole pens of fish during a breakdown.
“We have seen a steep increase in applications for the agriculture segment as these industries, like others, are focused heavily on driving efficiency through digitalisation. For these applications we often find they are deploying technology in harsher environments.”
Through its long association supporting the telecommunications industry, Eaton has solutions and locally based engineering resources that are providing application expertise to ensure the correct solutions are deployed to meet these demanding segment requirements — protecting both power availability and technology as well, Atherton said.
“With the technology layer moving so quickly in our economy, it is important that we support our customers with quality power management solutions, whether it be large data centres hosting the cloud, intelligent infrastructure supporting our growing city populations or applications supporting digital transformation, all of this is dependent on power.
“Locally in Australia and New Zealand, we believe continued investment in our local application engineering capabilities and service fulfilment team is a key initiative. These strong local capabilities will allow us to customise power management strategies to meet our customers’ diverse needs.”
However, technology is changing quickly and is all dependent on power, which means the power quality market needs to be agile and quick to adapt, said Atherton. An example is the implementation of 5G, which could potentially run on high-frequency millimetre waves. These waves can handle more data but can’t travel as far as lower-frequency waves used by older networks. As a result, 5G would need to rely on clusters of antennae as well as decentralised data centres close to consumers and businesses, therefore impacting the way power quality solutions are deployed. 5G will also enable IoT and see a proliferation of distributed smart devices, so the form factor and size of power protection solutions will need to change to meet demand.
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