This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of The Record.
Arizona Public Service (APS) has been delivering safe and reliable electricity to residents in Arizona, US for over 130 years and currently serves around 2.7 million people in 11 of the state’s 15 counties using a balanced energy mix that is nearly 50% carbon free. As such, APS has a substantial renewable energy portfolio and owns and operates the Palo Verde Generating Station, the top producer of power and largest producer of carbon-free energy in the US.
Like most power companies today, APS faces several challenges because of its changing workforce and highly distributed energy plants. The first is that approximately 52% of the personnel staffing its power plants are eligible to retire. The second challenge is the large geographical area that APS serves. There are more than 800 miles between the company’s two most distant plants, so it takes a full day to transport operators from one plant to another for training, and then another to take them back. The third challenge is the change in power generation mix from coal to gas. Operators need to be trained to ensure they are prepared for the switch, but providing this training is costly and time consuming.
To overcome these issues, APS wanted to implement a comprehensive training solution for effective knowledge management across all facilities. The company opted to work with AVEVA to take full advantage of its cloud-based simulation and training software.
Now, APS uses advanced computer-based training tools called Operator Training Simulators to help give operators the skills they need to run a process or plant. Operators learn how to manage a process in a virtual control room through the use of a DYNSIM Dynamic Simulation that behaves exactly like the plant by mimicking the plant control system.
Using cloud-based simulation and training gives APS the flexibility and easy-to-use tools it needs to address its three main problems. For example, APS can now use simulators to train its operators remotely on the new gas-powered plants. This means that APS can transfer knowledge and operational experience from older operators to new operators before they all retire is a mass exodus. Using the cloud to eliminate the need for operators to travel from plant to plant increases the return on investment on training and limits the time that operators are away from their plant.
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