Civitavecchia, the power plant gets smart
The Torrevaldaliga Nord power station has entered the Industry 4.0 era. Already one of the Enel Group’s most advanced thermal power stations in terms of innovative technologies and sustainability, it is now being turned into a digital “living laboratory” thanks to the use of Internet of Things technology and drones. This integrated solution was developed specifically for the Civitavecchia station by Israeli startups Convexum and Percepto, which worked hand-in-glove with our Global Thermal Generation innovation team on the project.
Digital transformation, in fact, enables “even older stations to be converted bit by bit,” explained Head of Global Thermal Generation Enrico Viale at the platform’s launch on 22 May.
Technologies working for energy efficiency and the environment
The solutions developed by Convexum and Percepto will optimise process management, machine control and maintenance operations in terms of routine preventative work and personal safety. Thanks to the equipment installed on the drones (thermal cameras, image processing and data collection systems), the roofs, chimneys and boilers can be inspected very rapidly to identify any critical areas or potential malfunctions or conditions that may lead to problems. The platform is completed by a system for the collection and initial processing of data stored in the cloud. The multiuse drone system developed by Percepto also supports environmental monitoring in the power plant area: the drones can continually and rapidly monitor seawater temperatures, measuring variations and identifying possible anomalies.
The technology developed by the startup Convexum, on the other hand, allows surveillance of the entire perimeter of the power plant and also stops unauthorised drones from entering the area. The system first identifies said drones and then forces them to land safely, while blocking radio links to the operator piloting them.
“We are just starting to use this solution. We realised its huge potential: the further we get with it, the more we are seeing the value of the quality data we’re collecting using the drones. We are aiming to extend these technologies from Torrevaldaliga to other Enel power plants,” explained Nicola Rossi, confirming that the system being used in Civitavecchia is a step towards digitalising the entire group of power plants in Italy and the other countries we work in.
Open Innovation: a game-changer for business
Together with sustainability, innovation is one of the keystones of our strategy. Our open approach based on collaboration with startups, universities and innovation ecosystems is changing and speeding up the introduction of new technologies. “Open Innovation has put the Global Thermal Generation division in contact with over 100 startups, resulting in the signing of cooperation agreements with more than 15,” explained Viale also recalling Enel’s eight-strong Innovation Hub network across the world, to which Pisa was added in mid-May, which is simultaneously a point of contact and a thermoelectric energy R&D laboratory.
Creating innovation, explained Enel’s Chief Innovability® Officer Ernesto Ciorra, means bringing our business lines in direct contact with innovative startups, research centres, other companies, crowdsourcing platforms and suppliers. The goal is to promote collaborations that will lead to the development of technological solutions capable of ensuring sustainable growth on both a social and environmental level. Our company provides expertise, experience and the opportunity to field-test the technologies developed and make them scalable.
The Civitavecchia facility is ushering in a new era for both power generation and the energy industry by using technology that makes production more efficient and, as a result, safeguards both the environment and people.