Energy based Cyber-physical systems (CPS) find their greatest popularity in smart grid applications, where a complex computational algorithm imparts “intelligence” to a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system used for balancing load distributions. In contrast to this static application of CPS technology, research conducted jointly by U.S. Department of Energy’s, National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Ames Laboratory proposes a new paradigm in which CPS is used as a core technology in energy system development, design, and deployment. The goal is to speed up the development and deployment of advanced concept power plants, reduce the cost and thereby encouraging private and public investment, and substantially reduce the risk of failure. The current technology development paradigm generally starts with models and bench-scale tests, leading to a pilot plant demonstration of the technology before construction of a commercial system. The concept proposed by NETL and Ames incorporates CPS before and during the construction of a pilot plant — arguably the highest risk part of implementing new energy technologies — and then extends the cyber physical infrastructure to the full-scale plant creating a fully functional and coupled digital twin. The creation of a cyber-physical platform as a part of the advanced energy system design and deployment has the potential to enable the “customization” of energy systems to meet local needs and resources. This will reduce cost and environmental impact of energy production and use. Examples of how the technology development process can be changed in the energy sector will be discussed using fuel cell turbine hybrids as an example.

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