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Virtual reality, a game changer in training power professionals

GlobalData’s latest theme report, Thematic Research: Virtual Reality in Power, highlights that virtual reality (VR) training could kick off in a big way and bring new value to the power industry.

VR technology can help the power industry to deliver workforce training and education in an immersive environment and these use cases will see the VR market, worth nearly $7 billion in 2018, on course to become a $28 billion industry by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13% over the forecast period.

However, while VR vendors are quick to discuss multiple uses for VR, in all likelihood, VR will remain a niche technology and its uses will be limited to employee training.

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According to Sneha Susan Elias, senior power analyst at GlobalData, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is working with major utilities such as Duke Energy, Consolidated Edison, EDF, Korea Electric Power Corporation and others on how VR can fit into the industry’s workforce.

Elias added: “Many VR devices manufacturing firms are also making huge investments in VR such as Google, Facebook, Sony, HTC, among others with VR headsets, and other devices being largely developed and experimented for numerous applications.”

VR crucial for training purposes

VR use cases are almost exclusively focused on training, planning and customer education. Many power utilities and companies are utilising VR for training purposes, with a strong focus on nuclear power plants (NPPs) which will help to restrict the nuclear workers’ exposure to various parts of a NPP.

Elias noted: “Operator training along with design validations at NPPs can now be performed in an effective manner with the help of VR. In August 2019, the Finnish utility Fortum built the world’s first high-definition VR simulator at its Loviisa NPP in Uusimaa, Finland, for training its control room operators.”

Duke Energy’s metrology team, located at Oconee, utilises laser equipment for imaging of NPP systems as well as components.

EDF’s research and development (R&D) team has developed a digital innovation ‘VVProPrepa – a VR tool’ that makes use of video gaming technology to offer thorough tours of nuclear reactor buildings, utilising maps, panoramic photos, laser scans along with 3D models.

Elias continued: “Consolidated Edison is utilising VR training to make their workforce ready for real dangers, enhancing safety and proficiency. PG&E, a major Californian utility, is working with a California-based Internet of Things (IoT) startup (now acquired by Nokia), Space-Time Insight to utilise plant data along with VR technology to offer a faster and safer way for utility personnel to examine equipment, reducing the probability of technicians getting injured or harmed.”

Siemens’ COMOS Walkinside – a 3D VR visualisation software solution – offers a virtual environment for immersive training sessions for power plant operators.

“The number of assets which are maintained or monitored is on the rise, and power utilities are increasingly witnessing the inclusion of renewable energy sources, electric vehicles (EVs) and distribution control equipment. However, much of this new equipment is fitted with sensors, and sensors are also retrofitted into older assets. This data can be used in VR models of critical assets,” Elias concluded.

Story originally published on Power Engineering International

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.