TOKYO -- General Electric will help Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, or Tepco, run power plants more efficiently, using the "internet of things" to detect problems early and reduce the amount of time the facilities sit idle.
GE's system collects data from sensors attached to equipment such as gas turbines and generators, and the information is analyzed on the cloud. This constant monitoring of operations ensures efficient use of gas and can predict and detect problems early. The technology should avert unexpected interruptions of operations and require fewer inspections, reducing the time these facilities are offline.
The system will debut Saturday at the Futtsu power plant in Chiba Prefecture, run by subsidiary Tepco Fuel & Power, with plans for introduction at other facilities if it proves successful.
GE apparently has helped improve efficiency 1-3% at power plants in the U.S. and other markets. In facilities such as Futtsu that use both gas and steam turbines, a 1% improvement in efficiency reduces costs by several million dollars annually. Tepco could save over 10 billion yen ($98.9 million) if the company adopts the technology at all of its facilities equipped with GE-made turbines. Components not made by the U.S. industrial titan can be hooked up to the system as well.
Major utilities and new players in Japan have been locked in tight competition since the nation's retail electricity market was fully deregulated in April, presenting major opportunities for GE. Tepco and other sector leaders have relied more on coal- and gas-fired plants after their nuclear reactors were halted in response to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Cutting costs at these facilities has become a key goal.