A digital twin built in cooperation with infrastructure specialist Neara and hosted on AWS is remaking Endeavour Energy’s response to events like this year’s floods.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in technology since I was a kid engineer”, Endeavour’s chief asset and operating officer Scott Ryan told iTnews, “and every five or 10 years, I look back on my career, and I think ‘how did we do our job before?’”
That’s the kind of impact Ryan believes is coming to fruition with the advent of the digital twin, as the industry sees more and more use cases.
Such as flooding: “our network is mapped, and we’ve got laser images from LIDAR,” Ryan said.
Endeavour’s systems also capture the structural integrity of the network, he said.
The water heights of the flood could be overlaid on the digital twin, so “we could see what parts of the network are underwater, what houses were underwater? Where did we need to direct staff to provide extra assistance?”
Since the Western Sydney floods earlier this year, digital innovation manager Edmund Li has been working on flood-proofing using the twin.
“We know what the flood extent was like, and we also have an idea on what the one in a 100 year flood level is going to be like as well,” Li said.
“So when we actually go and do these designs … for a network that’s going to be more resilient to floods, we can apply these different scenarios and understand what is still impacted?
“What more do we actually have to do in our designs so that our customers can actually still have their power? And also where customers are affected, how do we mitigate the outage duration, so that they’re disrupted for the least amount of time possible?”
Li said the digital twin offers the chance to do much more than is possible with existing tools like a geographic information system, a digital elevation model, and maps of where properties an assets are, because the digital twin can incorporate things hard to capture in those tools.
For example, the digital twin can capture the engineering characteristics of infrastructure – a tower might survive an eight metre flood, but not a 14 metre flood.
And it presents this information with far fewer tools, Li added: “The beauty of the digital twin is that it’s all on one on the one platform and you can actually simulate all of that and get the insights really easily.”
It becomes easy to model new factors, he said, like the ambient temperature or wind speed, so “we can better understand how poles stand up against … a windstorm, for example.”
Neara provides the design tools as well as the digital twin, Ryan said.
‘We’re able to do is look at what’s the structural integrity of that particular asset, what’s the strength of the pole, what’s the age of the pole, what happens when we run feeders and spans of lines, which go for another 10 meters, 30 meters. What’s the sag?
“We start to get a lot more functionality, which really steered us towards the Neara model over other digital twins that are out there. We really liked that integration of structural as well as physical twin,” Ryan added.
Neara’s history – the company was founded in Sydney – is also important, since Endeavour Energy can “have conversations with them face to face as well, if we want to.”
Endeavour Energy is also looking at how it can integrate other data into the digital twin.
“And as we think about digital twins moving forward, there may be the opportunity for Endeavour to work with city water or other utilities, as well, and with their digital twins,” Li said.
“So what that means is that when we’re designing the network of the future, we can better collaborate with … other partners or utilities as well.”
An example is that having access to Sydney Water’s digital twin would simplify new network designs.
“If we’re wanting to design our network, we’d much rather know where their assets are as well, so that we can actually design our network so that we’re not going to actually collide or have a conflict with each other,” Li said.
“So it’s really doing some of the clash-checking as well, of various different assets, rather than potentially just using the traditional methodology of … dial before you dig, we know right up the front, at the design stage, where everything is.”
All this puts a premium on data quality, and while much of the network is “pretty well mapped” using LIDAR, Ryan said, “we are cleaning up some of the 50-year-old decisions.”
“Engineers 50 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago didn’t envisage that we’d have a digital twin. What we are doing is we’ve started a program to go through and walk the streets and update some of those gaps that we’ve got on our network to identify.”
The aim, Ryan said, is that “over the next 12 months or so … our digital twin will go from a 90 percent version to 100 percent version.”
Having the twin hosted on an AWS cloud instance means there’s no need for Endeavour to cope with any infrastructure demands, Li said: “Neara are the experts at managing the infrastructure and the software.
“It’s all hosted in the cloud with AWS in Australia [so] we can, in conjunction with Neara, ramp up and ramp down the resource utilisation, as needed.
“So if we’re after, for example, some heavy, advanced analytics, runs or modelling, we’ll work with Neara on that.
“If we want this to be done quicker, can we ramp up the resources, and then we can ramp all the way back down again. So from a cost efficiency perspective, we get that advantage by going in the cloud.”