Energy storage, Blockchain, drones, augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, wearables and robotics are the sectors and technologies that are addressed by the innovation communities, which involve different areas and expertise within the Company (about 200 people).
- Drones - In recent years, Enel has intensified the use of drones in its asset monitoring and maintenance activities, inspecting solar fields, wind farms, dams and hydroelectric basins, components closed in traditional plants and distribution lines. The aim of this is to increase the efficiency of operational and maintenance processes and above all reduce the exposure of workers to risks.
- Storage - In addition to guaranteeing continuous support for current activities, storage systems enable the opening of new frontiers for sustainable business. Using storage systems ensures the improvement of reliability levels and the increase of quality indicators of distribution. Together with traditional generation, it also guarantees network balancing and stability of system loads at a national level. The use of batteries proves to be vital in supporting micro grids, in particular for the distribution service on smaller islands. The “Ginostra” project is under development, this will see the installation of a photovoltaic system with a hybrid battery/hydrogen storage system that will cover the entire energy needs of the small community on the island of Stromboli, using a renewable source.
- Blockchain - In 2018, experts from all the Enel business areas joined the community to assess the potential of Blockchain in each sector that the Group operates in. Work groups continued continued at Italian level, led by the Politecnico di Milano, at European level with eurelectric and at a regional level in Spain with the Alastria consortium. The pilot phase of the “Enerchain” trading project ended in 2018, it will address the challenges arising from the transition to an operational phase in 2019.
- Augmented Reality - In 2018, several pilot projects developed on what had been launched in 2017. Tests are currently underway regarding the usability of commercial devices that are currently available and their integration with personal protective equipment, with the aim of scaling up tests to an operational level.
- Wearables, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence - Most of the uses studied for wearables relate to safety applications, such as sensors for verifying the correct use of personal protective equipment, locating personnel on construction sites to avoid interference, or devices to help people carry out their ‘hands-free’ tasks without having to interact with smartphones or paper manuals, that can be distracting. In the field of robotics, the main applications concern the construction and automated maintenance of photovoltaic fields or other inspection and maintenance activities in areas that may present risks to personnel. 3D Printing involves the manufacturing of mechanical components, in order to repair valuable components that are subject to wear (turbine blades, burner elements) and to redesign and create innovative components with complex geometries and special materials. The community dedicated to artificial intelligence is the largest and covers a wide range of applications. Virtual assistants had the greatest focus in 2018, for use in call centers, to support internal operations and for network management optimization activities, such as identifying non-technical losses (energy theft) or damaged components in power lines through the analysis of aerial photographs.