Whitegate first power plant in the world to use GE software to power more efficiently

Seeking to increase its availability to meet Ireland’s future energy needs, the Whitegate Power Station in County Cork, Ireland, has implemented new GE (NYSE: GE) software technology to operate more efficiently and reliably. The site is the world’s first plant to install Reliability Excellence, a new advanced software solution which taps into industrial-scale data analytics to predictively identify operational issues before they occur.

The 445-megawatt gas combined-cycle power plant is located 25 miles east of the city of Cork and is owned by Bord Gáis Energy, a subsidiary of the Centrica Group since July 2014. GE, which provided the plant’s original generation equipment, operates and maintains Whitegate for Bord Gáis Energy under a 12-year service agreement. Whitegate began operating in November 2010 and generates enough electricity to meet the needs of 300,000 homes in Ireland.

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With the Irish government’s 2020 targets aiming for 40 percent of gross electricity consumption to come from renewable energy production—thus creating a greater requirement for reliable, on-demand generation capacity—Bord Gáis Energy understood it needed to prepare the station for such future grid challenges.

“It is critical for Whitegate, which at times can provide electricity for up to 10 percent of Ireland’s households, to be available for power generation when called upon by the transmission system operator,” said Rory Griffin, operations engineer—Whitegate, Asset Operations, Bord Gais Energy. “GE’s new software technology is an ideal solution to help increase our plant’s reliability and availability while making the most of our planned maintenance outages.”

In June 2014, GE launched the software project by installing a condition-based, real-time monitoring solution featuring 141 total sensors throughout the plant. Through around-the-clock monitoring of Whitegate’s hardware assets, GE’s Reliability Excellence technology provides the facility’s operators a single, consolidated view of plant performance. These insights are being translated into operational recommendations that are expected to help the station focus its maintenance activity on minimizing downtime.

Additionally, the software’s comprehensive data analytics is helping Whitegate detect operational anomalies, including combustion dynamics and parts degradation, before they become serious issues that could force the plant offline for costly unplanned repairs.

Phase two of the project will include an operations module for process optimization and operational excellence, providing key performance indicator-focused analytics to multiple levels of the facility. This phase will provide a pathway to more flexible operation and connect the plant performance better to the real time marketplace. These analytics will help customers identify actions for lowering production costs, increasing plant capability and improving system reliability.

“It has been quite fulfilling for our team to collaborate with Bord Gáis Energy to demonstrate the capabilities our Reliability Excellence software can bring to our customers throughout Europe and to do so cost-effectively,” said Ramon Paramio, general manager—Europe, GE’s Power Generation Services business. “The Whitegate project’s scope establishes a data-driven foundation based on reliability while delivering capabilities that enable the operator to make better business decisions based on real-time operational readiness.”

Reliability Excellence technologies are powered by an enterprise GE platform called Predix*. Representing an industrial cloud-based platform, this fully connected and secure cloud environment unifies the flow of data across all plant and fleet assets, delivering the enterprise visibility and insights needed to help optimize power plant, fleet and business operations. These applications are part of GE’s new Software Solutions portfolio, a suite of breakthrough power generation software capabilities that bridge both GE and non-GE equipment to deliver turnkey solutions.