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Convergence Is Coming!

April 19, 2011
Operators Are Under Pressure to Do More and Perform Better Than Ever Before

"The convergence of automation and power creates more value than each separately," began Peter Terwiesch, ABB chief technology officer, at the ABB Automation and Power World press briefing this week in Orlando. "For industry, we create energy efficiency and productivity; for utilities, we make a stronger and smarter grid."

Terwiesch used the power of integration as the backdrop and unifying theme for a rapid overview of ABB's latest new products and ongoing research. First, he showed a picture of "one of our customers in 1890" and noted that this plant operator may have had as many as six variables to control. Moore's Law as applied to information and process has increased that number many fold. Now we require information integration from heterogeneous and distributed sources, promotion of collaboration within and beyond the organization and, of course, the convergence of power and automation. "As I/O count increases, the scope of the operator's oversight and responsibilities also increases," Terwiesch said.

Operators are under pressure to do more and perform better than ever before, Terwiesch noted. ABB can help improve operator effectiveness by providing integrated operations and seamlessly integrating information, regardless of source. Consolidating and rationalizing control rooms is another step toward increased operator effectiveness, as are high-performance operator interfaces. "ABB pays attention to human factors by providing an extended operator workspace, and operator competence is enhanced by providing an operator training environment using the same operator displays and controls he or she will be using in the actual control room," he added.

"We invest more than $1 billion annually." ABB CTO Peter Terwiesch reviewed the broad range of new technologies arising from the company's commitment to research and development.ABB provides flexible evolution paths from previous generations (Elsag Bailey) and competitive systems too. "As Joe Hogan said this morning, we are going to revive and enhance our Symphony system offering so we can produce an integrated and more robust smart grid from producer to consumer," Terwiesch said.

Power and automation convergence isn't just for manufacturing either, Terwiesch noted. ABB is helping manage energy on ships with Azipod electric motors and a whole suite of energy management tools. Terwiesch also discussed ABB's development of two-stage turbochargers for marine applications. "Power goes up, even as NOx and fuel consumption go down," he said. And of ABB's varied solutions for the rail industry, he noted, "We don't want to build trains—but we want to help make them better."

The role of power electronics is increasing the pace of technology and the spectrum of applications for automation and power in convergence, said Terwiesch. These applications are found in five basic groups: renewable energy, power transmission, railways, industry and e-mobility. In renewable energy, ABB has solutions for wind power, solar power and power storage. In power transmission, ABB has a commanding technology lead in high-voltage direct current (HVDC) systems and controls.

Terwiesch went on to point out that with the acquisition of Baldor last year, ABB now has become the market leader in Super-E EISA efficiency-compliant NEMA motors, and he showed pieces of what he calls the "synchronous reluctance motor." This DC motor requires an integrated drive, but can deliver significant savings both in size and in cost, as well as cost of operation.

He also showed a gallery of potential electric-vehicle charging systems on his way to talking about integrating network management between information technology and operations technology. ABB has significant product offerings in the energy management infrastructure that bridges the gap, much of which came from ABB's recent acquisition of Ventyx.

ABB is building stronger, smarter grids around the world, Terwiesch said. For example, the world's first commercial digital substation with IEC 61850-9-2 integration is now on its way to Australia. The system increases operational safety and facilitates maintenance at live substations. And, in another industry first, Volt/Var optimization is improving distribution grid efficiency by reducing line losses and total demand through the use of mixed integer linear programming for scheduling of capacitors and voltage regulators at Oklahoma Gas and Electric. "These technologies are smart grid enablers," he said.

All of this is possible, Terwiesch concluded, because of ABB's continuous commitment to research and development. "We have invested more than $1 billion in R&D annually," he said, "which is an increase of more than 24% in the past four years. We have more than 6,500 scientists and engineers working at ABB in R&D, and we have collaboration agreements with over 70 universities worldwide."

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