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Schneider and ETAP partner on electrical digital twins


Schneider Electric and ETAP have announced a significant partnership to simplify electrical industry digital twins to improve electrical system training and operations. Schneider Electric is a leading provider of power management equipment for utilities, data centers, hospitals and semiconductor plants. ETAP is a leader in tools for electrical power systems analysis and operations. 

Electrical digital twins help evaluate repairs, interventions and connections before, during and after any changes. The new integration could improve operations for utility grid operators and teams responsible for data centers, hospitals, semiconductor plants and other power-intensive operations.

Schneider Electric creates software that helps coordinate operators across electrical equipment that may speak 20 to 50 languages. ETAP already had various tools for simulating power plant operations and training operators on top of Schneider’s platform. The new integration allows all Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Power Operation systems to connect with ETAP Electrical Digital Twin on a continuous real-time basis. 

The partnership will help power system engineers to anticipate potential failures and plan future systems’ expansions. Operators will be able to develop and test new operating procedures using the EcoStruxure Power Operation human-machine interface without the risk of affecting actual operations. The tests will be simulated on top of the underlying ETAP eOTS simulation and analysis platform before being implemented on live systems. 

A complicated balancing act

Managing electrical grids is a complicated balancing act between equipment from dozens of vendors, new sources of power and the increasing need for high-quality power. Minor mistakes, such as switching off circuit breakers in the wrong order, can have a cascading effect. 

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A recent Uptime Institute survey found that 79% of data center outages involve human error. Staff failing to execute, or incorrect processes and procedures are the top two issues contributing to those incidents. Three out of four data center owners and operators believe their most recent outage was preventable, a 16% increase over 2019. About 69% of operators experienced an outage in the last three years and 15% of these outages cost over $1 million. 

Outages can take a heavy toll on other industries as well. Oil and gas platforms experience up to $3 million in losses for every outage. A single electrical event in the semiconductor industry means a $3.8 million loss, while for hospitals, it costs roughly $1 million per eight-hour outage.

Easier simulation

The digital twin allows operators to simulate how the power system will behave under various operating conditions. It can be used to create simulated systems for training operators or let power system engineers run what-if scenarios to see how power equipment would respond under specific operating conditions in a safe offline environment.

This digital twin technology can also be implemented within a live EcoStruxure Power Operation system to simulate operations using real-time data from the live system to see exactly how the live system would respond before committing to the operation in the live system. 

“This is an extra layer of safety for operators who work on complex power distribution systems,” Tony Hunt, channel & segment marketing manager of digital power at Schneider Electric, told VentureBeat.

For example, one process includes validating the procedure for isolating a part of the distribution system for maintenance purposes. This involves a sequence of opening breakers and then closing the main tiebreaker. But occasionally, the wrong sequence will trip a breaker, so a different procedure needs to be followed to avoid unplanned downtime with the process.

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“Operators need to ask themselves questions in real-time in order to understand the behavior of their power system,” Hunt said. Teams can assess the maximum additional load that is currently possible and assess the potential gains by increasing the size of specific cables. 

Simplifying digital twins adoption

The ETAP electrical digital twin software was originally developed for electric utilities and electro-intensive facilities with large, complex electrical networks, such as oil and gas plants. It is mainly used to help engineers design electrical distribution networks, but it can also be used in the operations and maintenance phases for predictive simulation and operator training. 

The new integration will demonstrate the value that digital twins can provide by tying into the user interfaces teams are familiar with model-driven design tools for managing digital twins. Hunt hopes the new integration will make it easier to adopt digital twins outside the electric utility industry because of their benefits for mission-critical facilities (airports, data centers, hospitals) and manufacturing (semiconductor, automotive, electric vehicle battery, life sciences). 

“As electrical systems get more complex with renewable power sources, power storage systems, backup power systems, EV charging, the value that these kinds of solutions can bring increases in these demand-side markets,” Hunt said.

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