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Innovative geothermal power plant remote diagnostics project by Enel

Rancia 2 geothermal power plant, Tuscany/ Italy (source: Enel Green Power)
Alexander Richter 1 Oct 2018

Italian utility and energy company Enel Green Power shares details on SmartGeo, an innovative remote diagnostics projects to help predict geothermal plant performance.

At Enel Green Power, renewable sources work alongside innovation and digitalization, as described in an article on the company’s website shared today. The remote diagnostics project SmartGEO for geothermal plants, financed with the help of the region of Tuscany, is here described as example of the innovation efforts by Enel.

Almost half of geothermal plants are more than 15 years old – a fact that raises several concerns about their future usability, considering that their modernisation takes the same amount of time.

This is why Enel Green Power, together with academic and research partners like the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa and the University of Florence and industrial partners like I.S.E and SDI Industrial Automation, has created SmartGEO, an innovative remote diagnostics project that allows us to apply new digital technologies to predicting geothermal plant performance.

“Innovation applied to the management and maintenance of geothermal plants can become a leading example for all EGP’s activities.”– Ferdinando Costanzi, PM project SmartGeo Geothermal Line EGP INN

SmartGEO was developed with the support of the region that is the cradle of global geothermal energy, Tuscany. With the European financing programme POR-FESR, the region brought together local companies and research centres to contribute 25% of the total financing, 3.3 million euro.

EGP’s share in the project was 1.6 million euro.

The project was presented on 19 and 20 September in Zagreb, as part of the South Eastern Regional Workshop, one of the periodic meetings organised by the European Technology and Innovation Platform for Smart Networks for Energy Transition (ETIP SNET), featuring research and innovation in energy.

SmartGEO’s end goal is the reduction of inefficiencies, from malfunctions to small technical problems, to increase the plants’ energy production capacity.

Geothermal power plants telediagnostics project: How SmartGEO Works

The first phase of the SmartGEO project began almost two years ago, in 2017, when the Rancia 2 geothermal plant in Larderello, Tuscany, saw the installation of sensors and systems in its most important components, from the wells, the steam collection network, the re-injection pumps and pipelines to the steam cleaning systems.

SmartGEO is based on the integration of existing technologies with new concept solutions, both for sensors and analysis, in order to collect and examine all the plant’s data.

Thanks to data processing with new and innovative engineering algorithms, machine learning and Bayesian networks, SmartGEO made it was possible to get into the heart of the Rancia 2 plant and understand how to improve its maintenance and increase its performance.

A key component of the project was the use of an innovative human-machine graphic interface, which allowed operators to quickly identify the best corrective measures.

“Innovation and digitalization in the geothermal field are aimed at minimising inefficiency and unplanned maintenance works. In this way, we can achieve clear improvements in plant management, ensuring economic savings and lower environmental impact.”– Matteo Galgani, Tecnical Support Enel Green Power

Local Geothermal Power Innovation

In every stage of SmartGEO’s development, key contributions came from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa and from the University of Florence. With their work, they enabled EGP, and other industrial partners, to create a highly innovative product.

The University of Florence, specifically, created complex analytical algorithms, which have been applied to the energy field for the first time, opening up new scenarios in plant performance evaluation.

And researchers at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies have developed new wireless sensors that, based on a specific internet protocol, will be able to be used in other contexts as well, like smart grids, home automation and other industrial areas.

Understanding and Enhancing the Geothermal Power Plant

The use of tools for remote diagnostics allows for the integration and simplification of the control, automation and diagnosis systems already present in a plant, and also provides an opportunity to increase plant performance.

At Rancia 2, in fact, the implementation of SmartGEO is already expected to increase production by at least 1.5 GWh a year.

In the second stage, the model will be replicated in seven additional twin units, at a much more contained development cost, for an overall production increase of 12 GWh a year.

In the third phase of the project, with the acquisition of greater expertise and know-how, it will be possible to design a second generation of the remote diagnostics system, which will be used in plants powered by other renewable sources as well.

The use of a new generation of sensors on EGP’s entire geothermal fleet can increase overall annual production by 1%: further confirmation of how, at Enel Green Power, the use of renewable sources and innovation go hand in hand.

Source: Enel Green Power