AI is helping thermal power plants reduce costs and pollution

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        Despite periodic policy pronouncements to shift to cleaner fuels coal-fired thermal power plants still account for over 70% of India’s electricity. So we can expect thermal power to continue to occupy the top slot for quite some time overriding concerns over carbon emissions pollution and climate change. This requires power plants to improve their efficiency by adopting new technologies.

        But state-owned power plants and electricity subsidies have made it complicated to incentivize a shift to more efficient plants by investing in tech solutions. That’s one reason why industrial IoT startups which could have helped power plants with data analytics found it hard to sell their products in India in the past and focused on buyers in global markets. “It’s an extremely difficult market to sell into but thermal power is a stressed industry right now ” points out Rahul Raghunathan co-founder of three-year-old Bengaluru startup ExactSpace whose focus is on helping power plants with artificial intelligence (AI) for operational efficiency and predictive maintenance.

        It means thermal power plants have to operate at partial capacity during daylight hours when solar power reaches peak level in the grid. It’s a flexible operation scenario and that is one of the things we’re trying to address for a power plant ” explains Raghunathan. For a 500MW thermal power plant it means a reduction of coal usage by 10 000 tonnes in a year ” says Raghunathan. But unlike the GE platform which was built for multiple verticals the Indian startup focused on the special needs of thermal power. Two of the co-founders—Raghunathan and Arun Jose—had started visiting power plants while working together at a Bengaluru IoT services company. When they decided to launch an industrial IoT startup to serve the emerging needs of the thermal power industry they realized that they needed an insider with deep domain expertise. So they roped in a thermal power industry veteran Boben Anto as a third co-founder. Anto


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