The IoT, or the Internet of Things, includes physical objects and software that can communicate with each other and gather and store data on the Internet. Its use in the energy sector, predominantly in the field of energy as a service, is to derive useful information that can be transformed into insights and further used to increase productivity and efficiency.
Many have recognized the numerous benefits of IoT in the energy sector, which is why the market was valued at $130.12 billion in 2022 but is projected to reach a whopping $703.52 billion by 2031! This article highlights those benefits as well as the uses of IoT particles in the energy sector, so keep on reading to find out more.
The Internet of Things (IoT) in the Energy Sector
IoT is currently one of the top trends in the energy industry. One of the main driving forces behind this trend is the motivation of investors, who (understandably) see a future in IoT. Although it’s a relatively new trend, the opportunities for its application are countless. Here are a few examples:
1. Virtual Power Plants (VPPs)
The sources of power for a VPP are most commonly solar panels and wind turbines, further proving the point that the future will be powered by renewable sources. The network can consist of power sources, battery storage, and even electric vehicle charging stations. Once they are all interconnected, they create a flexible and unified resource that is then run on the energy market.
The IoT components, such as smart meters, thermostats, and management software solutions, are integral parts of a VPP. The central control system that is tasked with monitoring and coordinating all these different assets involves power utilities but also operators, producers, managers, and retailers.
2. Digitalizing Power Generation
As we already mentioned, considering environmental factors is becoming more and more important to the energy sector. IoT could prove of great help in this case, especially with renewable fuel generation. In practice, sensors would track data from, for example, solar power plants. Actuators could turn energy into motion, while IoT hardware could be used to align the panels to an optimal position and increase energy generation.
3. Smart Grids
The aging grid infrastructure is slowly reaching a point where it can no longer keep up with the increasing power demand. This led many, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), to seek a solution with IoT, and the idea of a smart grid was born.
This grid is almost fully facilitated by IoT, consisting of both hardware and software solutions and the infrastructure. What makes it different from a traditional grid is that the smart one involves two-way communication among the different elements and participants. This solution will most likely be a common practice in the future due to its self-sufficiency, renewability, and enhanced safety in comparison to the older grid models.
IoT and Data Analytics
The main advantage of IoT is the ability of different components to communicate with each other by gathering and interpreting data. This aspect has found many uses in the energy industry and helped facilitate many processes. For example, IoT devices can be used to monitor energy consumption on different scales. This can be done either on a unit basis, building basis, or even nationwide. With the gathered data, patterns are created, and then actionable measures to reduce consumption can be taken. Furthermore, observing patterns from previous periods allows for forecasting and crisis control.
Another use of IoT in the energy sector is to monitor equipment. Placing sensors on any piece can allow the manager or any other supervising party to maintain control over the unit. If a wind turbine, for example, encounters an issue and slows production down, the sensor will notify a human, and a repair team can be sent out to fix the issue as soon as possible. Without the sensor, certain problems could take up to weeks to notice and address.
IoT sensors can also help with energy distribution thanks to monitoring the usage. For example, cities that were monitored consistently showed more energy used in commercial areas in the mornings and more in residential ones in the afternoon, which makes sense considering the typical 9-5 work routine the majority follows. The energy sector knew to minimize energy sent toward the less busy areas just at the right time and improve overall energy saving on a city-wide level.
How the IoT is Transforming the Energy Sector
As we’ve seen, there are numerous practical applications of IoT in the energy sector, especially thanks to its data-gathering and processing capabilities. Paired with the benefits, it’s no wonder that the trend is spreading at a rapid rate. Let’s take a look at some of those benefits:
- Easier energy monitoring – thanks to the IoT sensors that constantly gather and interpret data,
Greater efficiency – through more centralized control of all processes,
Reduced downtime – due to so much being in the hands of the provider, they are more motivated to ensure optimal conditions,
Enhanced process automation – especially manual processes such as data collecting and analysis,
Improved maintenance practices – costs can be reduced with IoT devices that identify patterns and create forecasts for potential issues,
Predictive maintenance – thanks to IoT sensors, hardware issues can be foreseen and handled before they cause damage.
The Internet of Things is ground-breaking technology that has found its use in the energy sector, among many others. Practical applications are many, and the ones we discussed in this article included VPPs, smart grids, and one possible way of digitalizing power generation. One of the most significant perks of IoT is the way hardware can gather and interpret data, which helps in monitoring energy consumption, equipment, and energy distribution.
Finally, we went over the benefits of implementing IoT solutions in the energy industry, which included increased energy efficiency, improved grid management, predictive maintenance, reduced downtime, and integration of renewable energy sources.