Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Could IoT save coal power

William Payne
July 14, 2016

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claims that Internet of Things technology could create a huge new market for coal. The study estimates that implementing IoT technology in coal fired electricity generating stations could increase the efficiency of coal power stations from 33 percent to 49 percent. Moreover, IoT technology could cut dioxide emissions (CO2) significantly, according to the study.

The study says that IoT technologies could allow coal fired plants to be fine tuned in their operations far more efficiently than current coal fired stations. It also believes that IoT technology could cut a third of the time and energy it takes to start a coal fired plant from cold to the state where it is generating electricity.

Energy utilities have been implementing the forerunners of IoT technologies for over a decade now. Based on a study of the effects of these IoT efforts in the coal power plant industry, the MIT study concludes that such technology makes energy production far more flexible and efficient. It also suggests that implementing IoT technologies allow the deployment of more green energy power sources.

Green energy is challenging for energy suppliers because it can fluctuate, potentially leaving an energy supplier scrambling to fill in gaps left by green energy shortfalls.

IoT technology which can rapidly re-tune conventional power plants to increased electricity output, while still remaining at an optimal level of efficiency, makes adopting green energy far less risky and challenging for energy providers.

The study suggests that in fast emerging economies such as India and China, where adoption of coal fired energy power plants is being pressed by rapidly expanding demand for energy, IoT could play a key role in mitigating the potential environmental impact of the rush for coal.

"In places like China and India, they've already locked in plans to build brand new coal power plants, and those plants are going to be on the grid for 30 to 40 years," Scott Bolick, head of software strategy at General Electric, told the MIT Technology Review. "We look at it as our responsibility to make sure those plants are as sustainable as they can possibly be."