Cloud computing is slowly becoming a part of the way that energy companies and utilities manage their core IT needs.
But when it comes to shifting critical grid and power generation control systems to the cloud, they’ve been far more cautious, driven by concerns about reliability, security, and the challenge of integrating legacy control systems with a modern, distributed IT architecture.
But for a company that’s building a renewable energy generation fleet from the ground up, cloud computing can offer a lot of benefits. At least, that’s how Bharat Light and Power is looking at its new project with IBM to shift some of its core wind power management tasks to the cloud.
Bharat announced earlier this month that it’s using IBM’s SoftLayer cloud platform, for asset management, mobile workforce integration and power generation analytics for its roughly 200-megawatt fleet of wind farms throughout India. Those wind farms are scattered throughout the country, many in remote areas, and present a significant operations and maintenance challenge.
That opens up an opportunity to centralize those tasks in the cloud, Mozhi Habibi worldwide energy and utilities industry leader for IBM, said in a Monday phone interview. Bharat, founded by former head of General Electric’s India business Tejpreet S. Chopra, and backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, had already turned to IBM to manage its core IT systems in the cloud, making the transition to a broader set of cloud-based applications a logical next step, she said.
“We were just going to manage their IT systems, not that much getting into the business side,” she said. “Then, as we moved forward with the, we ended up saying, we could use this same cloud environment for a lot of other things.”
Those include asset management systems for Bharat’s fleet of wind turbines, as well as integrating that flood of data into the mobile handsets used by field workers that maintain those assets, said Habibi. It also includes IBM’s Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyRef) technology, a set of big data analytics tools that crunch weather data to forecast wind turbine output.
Bharat wants to expand its renewable portfolio to 1,000 megawatts of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower in the next five years through acquisitions and new projects, and also manage wind farms for other clients. That means that it needs to manage its power delivery contracts with grid operators for the wind farms it owns, as well as create service level agreements (SLAs) for those it manages, toreduce risk and maximize the return on those investments, she said.