Power and Prediction: Azure IoT Keeps ENGIE Ahead of Issues - and its Market

Predictive maintenance and rapid real-time response help ENGIE move faster into the future of renewable energy.

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Executive summary

To reduce downtime and increase service levels for its expanding renewable energy offering, ENGIE leveraged scalable Microsoft Azure IoT. Now by adding the power of edge computing to its operations, ENGIE can better foresee issues and push forward innovation in its production of solar, wind, water and biogas energy across the globe.

  • Challenge
  • Approach
  • Results

The Challenge

With 500 renewable energy production sites, including wind turbines and solar panels, collecting billions of messages every day – and counting – ENGIE‘s existing data management system struggled to keep upFacing impending, and immense, growth of its worldwide energy park, ENGIE needed a secure, scalable IoT solution to maximize real-time control and minimize lost time due to technical issues.

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As its primary purpose, one of the world’s leading energy players, ENGIE, aims to accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral world through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally friendly solutions. A significant part of this mission includes the management of a growing number of renewable energy production sites, all monitored and managed through the group’s dedicated platform, Darwin, created in 2010. More than 500 renewable energy sites across the world are connected to Darwin, representing a capacity of 18GW – the equivalent of 18 nuclear reactors.

The Darwin platform consolidates data generated by the production sites, which is then processed, archived, and shared with the teams who ensure their management, operation and maintenance.

With several billions of messages passing through the platform each day, and multiplying in number year on year, ENGIE realized that its existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) wasn’t up to par. As data volumes increase, so does the risk of suffering a lapse in operations – which means production loss of carbon-neutral energy. To better manage the production sites and anticipate potential issues, the company needed a solution that would scale in line with its rapid growth as well as process and share the messages as fast as possible. Enter IIoT and edge computing.

ENGIE understood how edge computing can help overcome the challenges associated with rapid growth by analyzing data in real time and close to operations, enabling companies to more quickly raise alerts and drastically reduce downtime. Additionally, ENGIE needed a more precise view of equipment and operations through Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) allowing the company to better align supply with demand, both short term and in the moment.

To enhance the resulting insights from its Darwin platform, ENGIE searched for a secure, innovative IoT solution that would be able to rapidly process a large, and continually growing, volume of data. After evaluating the available offerings on the market, ENGIE Digital, the group’s development team, found the optimal solution on the Microsoft Azure platform.

“We’re right in the middle of an IoT revolution,” explains Damien Terrié, Head of Digital Platform at Engie Digital, “The Microsoft Azure cloud was the most pertinent choice, considering Azure IoT’s capabilities and the presence of the powerful Time Series Insights tool, which is specialized in the analysis and visualization of IoT data in large scale.”

To guide them through the process, ENGIE chose Codit for its end-to-end IoT experience and expertise in Microsoft technologies, from the Azure cloud to infrastructures on Azure Edge.

We capture more data in less time with better traceability. Azure IoT enables us to benefit from all the advantages of the cloud, including a more rapid deployment and easy scalability.

Damien Terrié Head of Digital Platform at Engie Digital

The Approach

ENGIE looked to Codit for guidance across the entire project scope: discover Microsoft Azure IoT, model it and then put in place. To kick-start the development process and ensure the resulting solution’s capability to seamlessly lead several distant sites at once, the teams leveraged the strengths of Codit’s Data Connectivity Suite for Equipment. After production, Codit helped ENGIE further enhance the solution through post-deployment adjustments.

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While ENGIE’s primary goal was to develop a data capture and processing platform that would cover the scope of its existing SCADA system, the implementation needed to allow for a gradual transition – over several years.

The first step of the project was to discover the capabilities and strengths of the Microsoft Azure IoT solution and validate its usage across selected pilot sites. The second phase involved integrating this technology into the architecture of the existing information system in such a way that the old and new platforms would work parallel to each other.

To streamline the implementation of the solution and ensure its alignment with the best practices of the sector, Codit employed its Data Connectivity Suite for Equipment– A solution accelerator for integrating IIoT technology, the Data Connectivity Suite for Equipment leverages Microsoft Azure technologies to bring the power of the cloud to every device through a swift, secure connection. The result is a cost-effective, dedicated and stable solution that allows companies to capitalize on the data they have already gathered.

By way of its solution accelerator, Codit was able to implement Edge technology as close as possible to the production units, connecting sensors to capture and process local data before passing it to the cloud – the heart of the Darwin platform.

Once the solution was defined, the teams dove into its construction, collaborating not just between ENGIE and Codit but also across several international locations. The developers at ENGIE Digital follow the method of agile software development, allowing the process to remain adaptive, evolutionary and inclusive for cross-functional teams and changing priorities. These ENGIE developers are divided across the globe, working from four different sites: Brussels, Paris, Lyon and Houston. Each contributor’s responsibility and engagement along with the use of cutting-edge collaboration tools are necessary to ensure the success of these projects – a distinctive characteristic that the experts at Codit not only understand but experience in their everyday work.

After putting the Microsoft Azure IoT solution into production, the teams at ENGIE and Codit continue working together to ensure its performance through fine-tuning adjustments and complementary functionality. “After deployment, Codit is still present,” confirms Damien Terrié, Head of Digital Platform at Engie Digital, “I think we will continue to benefit from their experience and expertise in data acquisition.”

Results

Today, the Microsoft Azure IoT solution not only supports ENGIE in its continued growth but also allows the company to avoid costly gaps in its operations. With a more reactive platform, the group can capture a larger volume of data at a higher frequency, allowing the company to anticipate issues, control them in real-time and to optimize maintenance tasks.

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Beyond implementing a new data management system, ENGIE’s Microsoft Azure IoT solution dramatically boosts its Darwin platform to a new dimension. “We capture more data in less time with better traceability,” explains Damien Terrié, Head of Digital Platform at Engie Digital, “Azure IoT enables us to benefit from all the advantages of the cloud, including a more rapid deployment and easy scalability.”

While this new platform for the collection, centralization and sharing of ENGIE’s production site data answers a present-day problem of operational inefficiency, it also prepares the company for the future. With data volumes rising faster and the tides of renewable energy offerings making waves across the smart grid, ENGIE recognizes the importance of balancing its energy production portfolio. The Microsoft Azure IoT solution facilitates this task, expediting the integration of renewables into the electricity grid.

In addition to improved monitoring, analysis and reporting, the new solution also enables optimized management and maintenance of the production sites through a digital twin, based on machine learning algorithms.

Alongside upgrading data management capabilities, the Microsoft Azure IoT solution is designed to uphold continuation of service during initial migration and as ENGIE continues to expand its sites. At production, the company needed to simultaneously connect its more than 500 existing sites worldwide as well as anticipate this connection for future ones supporting ENGIE’s goal to increase its renewable energy production by 4GW per year.

Terrié, adds, “Today we have two different technologies working in parallel. This does not necessarily simplify our life, but it is a prerequisite for a gradual migration of our sites.”

Moving forward, ENGIE Digital’s next step will be to add a configurable alerting interface, linked to this new IoT chain. The company also plans to move other building blocks of the Darwin platform to Microsoft Azure PaaS.

A word from the client

“Codit supported us during all phases of the project: discovery, architectural design prototyping and operational implementation. We can now take advantage of Microsoft Azure IoT to continue to expand in France and internationally.”

Damien Terrié Head of Digital Platform at Engie Digital

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