Staying up-to-date to industry trends is critical to presenting yourself as a subject matter expert in an interview. One of the most important trends in the nuclear industry is the concept of a digital twin. Here’s what you should know about it to have an informed conversation around the subject.

What is a Digital Twin?

A power plant with a digital twin essentially provides the high-level connectivity and information resources that allow operators to quickly and effectively analyze problems and make data-based decisions to mitigate any issues that come along. Imagine a system with the ability to detect problems across entire combined-cycle power stations, from gas turbines to steam turbines, boilers, generators, and even control systems. That system is then able to communicate with human operators how best to avoid unplanned downtime, enhance plant efficiency, and even increase overall profitability. It’s the Internet of Things for the energy industry, and it is completely revolutionizing the market.

Understanding the Technology

The digital twin technology was originally developed by NASA to manage assets such as satellites too distant to allow for conventional methods. The digital twin technology is currently being adopted by a growing range of industries, as the technologies required become more readily available and cost-effective. As more industries embrace the technique, more companies are catching on to the benefits of a digital twin. Some estimate the growth rate for digital twins across all industries to soon be in the billions.

The concept is not necessarily a new one. It follows the general methods of a finite element model or representation of a physical process, with the key difference being a move to the digital realm. The digital twin terminology simply describes a new approach to simulating real-world processes that are becoming increasingly accessible to decision-makers in the power industry.

Benefits of a Digital Twin

In the case of a digital twin for a power plant, the virtual copy is a functioning digital model that can simulate numerous scenarios in real time, ensuring that maintenance is based on need rather than on a schedule. This reduces fuel use and even assists with energy trading decisions by incorporating business data into digital twin analytics. It’s big data for power plants. Implementation of the technology is quickly ramping up in the industry. It brings together the industrial internet, rapidly expanding sensors and controls, edge computing, the cloud, powerful analytics, advanced software, and a growing base of real-life data accumulated over time, from individual assets and entire fleets.

The digital twin technology can be implemented on several levels, for a variety of purposes. For example, a product twin can monitor the remaining life of an asset (such as a steam turbine) and protect against surprise or unnecessary maintenance costs. A process twin in comparison can adjust scheduling of field engineers to increase utilization. A system twin can enhance operations and weigh KPIs, balancing revenue gains against maintenance costs. The core benefit of all these options is for digital twins to be used to predict potential risks, failures, and business opportunities for those able to make sense of the data.

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