The electricity generator will integrate Solace's technology into its existing IT systems to drive operational efficiencies through improved data visibility

Drax plant control room

Inside the control room at Drax power station (Credit: Drax Group)

UK power producer Drax is advancing its digital capabilities through a partnership with software company Solace that will upgrade its real-time data-management and modernise its IT architecture.

The energy firm, which supplies around 6% of the country’s electricity consumption, will use Solace’s technology platform to improve the way information flows across its operations and supply chains, helping it to dynamically manage demand fluctuations, storage, and energy delivery.

This “event mesh” software distributes data between applications and devices in real-time, running across divisions and on-premise data centres as well as public clouds, and will allow Drax to update its legacy IT infrastructure without the need for full system replacement.

Digitalisation is fast becoming a crucial tool for energy suppliers in the transition to a lower-carbon power system, as traditional patterns of supply and demand evolve and new, more distributed sources of generation are linked to the grid.

Being able to accurately monitor network activity in real-time, and call upon large and varied data sources to quickly respond to new events will be critical to ensuring reliability as the grid changes, and to future-proofing the system as wider technological transformation unfolds.

“By making information from across its operation available to systems and the people that need it in real-time, Solace’s technology gives Drax the ability to quickly respond to the constantly-evolving current and future needs of the UK’s energy system,” said Michael Hayward, account director at Solace.


Solace software will drive operational efficiencies across Drax operations

Drax has recently transformed the bulk of its power generation facilities to run on biomass feedstocks rather than coal, and sources wooden pellets for its operations from the US. Solace’s software will provide additional visibility over these supply chains to improve efficiencies and purchasing decisions.

The Event Portal software application will provide greater transparency over Drax’s event-driven architecture (EDA), by adding the capability to design, catalogue, visualise and govern event streams.

“Having efficient IT infrastructure is key to delivering our purpose of enabling a zero-carbon, lower-cost energy future for our business customers,” said Drax Group’s IT director Mark Leonard.

“Solace’s services have enabled us to improve user experience and drive operational efficiencies – we can access, transform and utilise our data wherever and whenever we want through the integration hub.”

The transition from coal to biomass has been a large undertaking for Drax, and it is adding further operational complexity by integrating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to create what it says will be fully “carbon-negative” generation capacity by the end of this decade.

Its flagship power station in Selby, North Yorkshire is also planned to be part of a proposed zero-carbon industrial cluster in Humberside, where a range of new technologies including CCS and hydrogen will be developed as part of the UK’s industrial decarbonisation strategy.

Improved data management will play an important role in integrating these new processes and overseeing Drax’s operations as it develops and introduces new capabilities for managing the UK’s future energy needs.