Digital Twins: an Essential Step to Securing the Grid

While Texas produces more energy than any other U.S. state, much of its infrastructure is not winterized. In February 2021, more than 5 million people were without power: some for over 3-days resulting in 210 fatalities. Freezing conditions accounted for 44 percent of the blackouts.

A chain reaction happens when critical infrastructure fails. Grocery stores close without lighting or the ability to stock shelves. Supply chains are disrupted. Residents are exposed to harsh conditions. Hospitals rely on generators putting vulnerable patients at risk. Access to water can be disrupted from frozen pipes and power generation can fail to meet supply.

3D Digital Twins can play a role across our critical manned and unmanned infrastructure. Quickly and cost effectively taking stock of existing facility and site conditions allows stakeholders to plan and design mitigation remotely. With a $500 camera attached to your hardhat, local facility teams can capture many sites/assets or even large facilities during their regular site visits and have data ready next day through secure cloud access. The benefits at this stage are enormous.

  • Improved data management for effective communication, decision-making, planning, inspection and remediation
  • In-environment annotations can hold critical asset information, documentation, serial numbers and maintenance histories
  • Remote access and virtual walkthroughs provide critical contextual insight about the environmental and asset conditions
  • Knowledge retention through visual data consolidation enables better continuity of function and service

Senate Bill 3 requires power generation and transmission companies to winterize their facilities. Yet, only facilities labeled critical infrastructure by Texas regulators will be required to make the upgrades. Some investments have been made in “reliable” energy sources. Vistra Corp. and other power providers are investing in backup storage, additional infrastructure, and alternate fuel sources. But winterization of critical infrastructure remains a massive job with a heavy price tag. The problem will not be solved overnight, but having accurately site conditions is a massive first step forwards to proper planning and effective mitigation actions.