Which new and emerging technologies will be essential to your power plant’s success? Our special cover story series gives you a glimpse into the future of advanced distributed controls, wireless applications, and automation technologies.

Advanced instrumentation and controls have become the nerves and synapses that make efficient and reliable power generation possible. Not so many years ago, boiler and turbine operation were more a function of operator skill and dexterity, as just about every plant function, from steam temperature to turbine speed, required manual control. Today, the speed of safety control loops and equipment operation processes have far surpassed the capabilities of a control room full of journeyman operators. From today forward, power plant control will be all about synergy between a technician and advanced hardware and software that make intelligent operating decisions possible in a competitive business environment.

The future of power plant operation will be about squeezing the last drop of performance from existing power generating assets. The first step in that process is intelligently analyzing the overwhelming mass of operating data that can be collected and stored. Advanced technology tools are in development that possess very human-like heuristic algorithms that can sift through mountains of data and piece together the bits to create useful information that may give a generating company a competitive edge in the power market.

Future success will depend not on accumulating more data but on designing processes that can extract knowledge from this information for human analysis and decision-making. In essence, we’re looking at a continuum of collecting data, developing information from that data, extracting knowledge from the information, and then developing the wisdom necessary to operate a plant, a system of plants, or a complete enterprise in the most economical way.

Thought leaders may disagree about where we sit along this continuum, but the consensus seems to be that our industry is already very good at collecting data ad infinitum but is much less capable of manipulating it and making an intelligent assessment of it. Few plants have advanced IT tools at their disposal to make independent decisions to optimize processes at even the plant level. Wisdom will only come to those who fully integrate their business processes and produce actionable business intelligence beyond an enterprise-wide optimization of their power generating assets, fuel supplies, transmission and distribution assets, and so on.

Our challenge as an industry today is to continue to develop and implement the right technology tools that will push us a little further along this data-information-knowledge-wisdom continuum.

To that end, we have worked with several industry leaders, through our long-time partnership with ISA POWID, to develop this issue’s cover story section on the state of the art and the future of power plant computing. The articles included explore how technology advancement remains the key enabler of our evolutionary push toward enterprise-wide asset management. I hope you enjoy this special section as much as we enjoyed working with ISA POWID and the authors.


The International Society of Automation (ISA) Power Industry Division (POWID) is an organization of those with an interest in the development and application of instrumentation and controls in the power generation industry. Through POWID, originally formed in 1957, professionals share advancements in these fields with their colleagues around the globe. The ISA POWID currently has a global membership of approximately 2,400 members and was given the ISA’s Outstanding Division Award for 2008, besting 16 other divisions.

POWID joined with EPRI in 1991 to sponsor what is now known as the POWID/EPRI Controls and Instrumentation Conference. This year will usher in another partnership. The 52nd Annual POWID Symposium and the 19th Annual ISA POWID/EPRI Controls and Instrumentation Conference (www.isa.org/~powid/powid_2009_%20main.htm) will be colocated with the ELECTRIC POWER Conference & Exhibition (www.electricpowerexpo.com) at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill., from May 12 to 14. POWER is the official publication of both conferences.

Keep in touch. ISA POWID has developed a echnical program for its 2009 conference to help members stay connected with their peers and learn about the latest power generation instrumentation and contorls advances. The conference will be colocated with the ELECTRIC POWER Conference & Exhibition in May. Source: TVA

By colocating these two major industry conferences, attendees will be able to leverage limited travel budgets and double the educational benefit of a single trip.