Power generation, distribution, and control are critical anywhere in the world. Interestingly, the more we improve at anything, the more work we have to do. Catherine Pulsifer once made a quote on implied consequences – Life presents many choices, and the choices we make will determine our future. Therefore, as many as choose to solve the problems of energy sustainability must plan to take responsibility for the coordination it requires, even at the communities level.
The Problems LIC (Energy Communities) Solves
One particular sustainable energy source that is very reliable is the use of solar photovoltaic systems. The power supplied by the sun is more than any other source. However, various problems arise from solar power generation using photovoltaic systems.
- Operational challenges – the nature of solar production can be random. This is due to changing intensities of radiation from the sun. The photovoltaic cell produces the appropriate electrical energy each time, but the nonlinear state gives technical issues.
- Overloading of grid components – the produced voltage may not be consumed at the normal rate. This may cause overvoltage in the grids.
- High cost of self-generation – attempting to get power for independent use is expensive. Not only is it expensive, but it also is not profitable for distribution companies and operators.
Most of these problems are solved with the use of smart grids. Smart grids may be complex, but they allow for more efficient energy systems. They make use of technology to improve the communication, automation, and connectivity of power networks. The regulation is also very useful – when less power is consumed, production is reduced.
Also, when power production approaches its peak, there is an automatic regulation. The automation of the distribution process makes it easier to control and maximize the power generated. We minimize losses as a result.
How LIC works
To solve these issues in the public grid for the village of Lugaggia, LIC was set up. The Lugaggia Innovation Community (LIC) by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) is an excellent step in the right direction. It is a community set-up that aims at onboarding house owners and the kindergarten around them to a smart grid.
Objectives of this project include:
- checking how acceptable the self-consumption communities would be to the community stakeholders
- making use of blockchain to decentralize the management of bills
- evaluating the needs and requirements of the practical LIC
- accessing the potential for local flexibility
- technically observing the effect of flexibility and how it can be exploited.
In order to reduce grid issues, in terms of unbalances encountered in the distribution grid and the accompanying tariffs and taxes, grids have been handled by this LIC. Starting from creating the self-consumption community (SCC), LIC meets the entire community’s pertinent energy needs. It is in line with all the energy ordinances and laws guiding SCCs. It is not enough to produce power; there is more need to get it to where it is needed and for it to be cost-effective.
The Approach LIC Takes
LIC’s resources consist of homes powered by solar panels and their installations (heat pumps and heaters). They are all first centralized using the OptiFlex-Innosuisse (a product by Optimatik, a Swiss Smart Grid solution provider) solution. This is by integrating all outlets in one grid and making use of a district battery. Once this is done, Hive Power comes in to play a vital role.
Decentralized energy management in LIC is done by implementing our community manager module on the Hive Platform. LIC requires this module to achieve a more flexible control. By the use of blockchain technology, the entire process is secured. These processes include sensing, actuation, synchronization, and even payments.
Major Contribution by Hive Power
Grid managers can easily assess all details and overview of the generation and consumption of power in the LIC project using the Hive Power Core Module. Appropriate measurement of energy and monetization is as well performed adequately with the Hive Platform. Once the value is known, it is sent to the blockchain.
The community got operational on October 1st, 2019, and had been experimented on. Some major milestones have been met, but overall, the LIC project has reached the halfway milestone.
Some of the blockchain activities have been set off. LIC has already gotten a second-layer solution using sidechain technology. This solution was developed, implemented, and tested in the LIC in 2020.
Also, the capability to preserve the prosumers’ privacy has been seen to be useful. A dedicated technology (Auditable Tariff – AT) runs at intervals and stores data about the production and consumption of energy on the sidechain.
The goals of the halfway longitudinal study were majorly to examine pilot activities from the users’ point of view and to evaluate attitudinal changes during the activities. In the end, it was seen that there were no major changes when a survey was taken. This survey was taken twice, at the beginning of October 2019 and recently in December 2020. More particularly, the observed effect of the Lugaggia SCC remained stable.
Current Activities on LIC
Tests on electrical water heaters defined as Domestic Hot Water (DHW) and Heat Pumps are currently ongoing. This is to follow up on the actuation tests on the flexibility done in the last part of 2020.
Also, the current work in the LIC is focused on the adaptation of the industrial version of the OptiFlex solution. It is ongoing and will continue till July.
Considering that this is the last year for the LIC project, the plan has been to focus on the industrialized version of the solution given by OptiFlex. That is, the device to be used for centralization. From August till the end of the year, we will be testing an improved version of the algorithm of decentralization. Further tests on the DHWs would also be conducted with more controlled devices.
The LIC is also participating in the PARITY H2020 project, whose trials would begin in 2022. The project would address issues in existing distribution grids. The efficiency promises to be improved.
The approach provided by Hive Power’s solution (decentralized control) would also be extended and utilized in various business and regulatory environments.