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SIT: Enhancing Microgrid Resilience with Digital Twins

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Researchers at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) have made significant strides in enhancing the resilience and efficiency of microgrid operations through the development of a digital twin for the Punggol Campus microgrid. This innovative virtual model can simulate responses to various scenarios, such as sudden surges in demand or power faults, allowing operators to test and prepare for disruptions in a controlled digital environment.

Image credits: Singapore Institute of Technology

The importance of this technology was highlighted on 01 January 2023, when a power outage at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport stranded 56,000 passengers and disrupted 300 flights, despite a backup power supply. Such incidents demonstrate the frequency and potential devastation of power disruptions from equipment failure or natural causes like storms and lightning.

Digital twins, virtual replicas of physical systems, offer a promising solution for managing and mitigating the impacts of power disruptions. In the context of energy management, they allow engineers to simulate and test different scenarios, such as equipment malfunctions or changes in load demand. This capability enables a detailed assessment of how the system responds, providing critical insights that help in planning the deployment of backup resources more effectively.

Associate Professor Soh Chew Beng, Deputy Cluster Director of Engineering at SIT and lead Co-Principal Investigator of the project, emphasised the role of digital twins in predictive maintenance. “Carrying out test cases using the digital twin allows the campus microgrid operator to recognise early symptoms of electrical asset malfunction and prevents catastrophic equipment failure. It also allows the operator to carry out predictive maintenance based on diagnosis of the data collected.”

From 2021 to 2022, Prof. Soh and his team developed a digital twin of SIT’s Punggol Campus microgrid under the S$20 million EDGE programme by the Energy Market Authority and SIT. This initiative aims to make renewable energy more accessible.

The team tested the digital twin with real-life scenarios like power surges and generator breakdowns, comparing these simulations with the grid’s actual responses. This validated the digital twin’s accuracy and effectiveness, ensuring it can predict and manage disruptions, shorten recovery times, and streamline operations to reduce energy wastage

The SIT-developed digital twin, initially for the Punggol Campus microgrid, can also simulate microgrids in various settings like offshore charging sites and aquaculture barges, enhancing its value across industries. Additionally, its preventive and predictive maintenance capabilities boost operational efficiency, making Singapore more attractive to foreign investors, especially in critical sectors like semiconductors, data centres, and pharmaceuticals.

“The proficiency to anticipate and proactively address potential issues enhances the overall reliability and allure of Singapore’s electrical infrastructure, fostering its reputation as a hub for innovation,” Prof. Soh emphasised.

The digital twin offers educational and research opportunities for SIT students, who can experiment and hone skills valuable for Singapore’s decarbonising energy sector. The Punggol Campus microgrid acts as a living lab, where SIT faculty and students collaborate with industry partners and other institutions, fostering applied learning and innovation.

Looking ahead, Prof. Soh hopes to expand the use of the digital twin for more applied research, “In the past, developing a microgrid involved setting up based on our best understanding and making adjustments as needed. Digital twins allow us to fine-tune and optimise configurations virtually before committing to actual setups and hardware investments, ensuring efficiency and minimising risks.”

The development of the digital twin at SIT marks a major advancement in energy management. It enhances microgrid resilience and efficiency through accurate simulations and predictive maintenance, serving as a valuable educational and industry tool. As digital twins integrate into global energy systems, they promise to transform power disruption management, contributing to more stable and sustainable energy infrastructure.


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