GE smart helmet keeps power flowing in India

  • November 9, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

A smart helmet from General Electric helped bring an Indian power station back online.

During India’s countrywide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sanjeev Kumar, a field service engineer for GE Renewable Energy’s grid services unit in India, and his team got a distress call from Haryana Power Generation.

One of the corporation’s hydroelectric power plants in Yamuna Nagar, a city of 1.2 million people about 225km north of the capital of New Delhi, had experienced a sudden breakdown in a circuit breaker, interrupting the flow of the 7.2MW of electrical power the station normally generated. If not dealt with, there was a possibility the problem could persist for days.

The GE team in India knew they had to act quickly. Besides disrupting the lives of consumers and idling business, a lasting power outage can also deliver a significant hit to a power company’s bottom line. Knowing it would be difficult and time-consuming to send a team of experts during the Covid-19 lockdown, GE dispatched a single field service engineer to Yamuna Nagar equipped with a smart helmet.

The helmet is basically a wireless computer running Android software. It provides field service engineers with a direct link to an off-site technical support team. Whatever the engineer sees, the remote expert sees. Whatever thorny issue is causing an outage, the remote team and the on-site technician can talk it through.

This is possible because the smart helmet comes equipped with a camera, microphone and small LCD mounted just below eye level that allows the field engineer to read instructions or view pertinent schematics sent by the support team while freeing up their hands.

“If you don’t have the smart helmet, what is the option?” said Kumar. “You use your smartphone. But using the head-mounted tablet, you are totally safe and are communicating in real time and can use both hands.”

In Yamuna Nagar, the field service engineer discovered that a malfunctioning circuit breaker had stopped charging a switch on a large turbine, causing it to shut down. The support team, located more than 1600km to the south in Bangalore, was able to take him through the adjustments needed to reset the energy levels on a spring that closed the circuit. In a matter of hours, the substation was back up and running.

“Normally, it may take two days’ time for the customer to find and fix a problem like this,” Kumar said.

Closing the plant for that amount of time was not a viable option, especially in a country that has made such a big commitment to hydropower. India ranks fifth in the world – just behind China, Brazil ,USA and Canada – with 50.07GW of installed hydropower capacity.

“A prompt response time to customer emergencies with a robust remote service support component is critical, especially when the country faces lockdowns across various states,” said Deepak Sharma, regional service leader for GE. “Our customers’ business relies on an uninterrupted power supply in grids and industries, and we are ready to support their operations anytime, anywhere to secure their investment. I want to put my smart helmets to use in every region of India – east, west, north and south.”