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.
Fossil fuels have served their purpose wholly since their discovery, providing energy that has surpassed initial expectations. Still, over the years, with more innovations springing up around the world due to technological development, it has become apparent that the source of our all-important energy and its continued use is detrimental to the environment we so desperately need for continued existence. So we have turned to renewable energy.
This form of energy has a less negative environmental impact, is more sustainable, allows for the creation of a much-needed increase in employment. RE sources also help sovereign nations utilise their natural environment and resources to generate the power they need and acquire a self-sustaining income.
This post is a case study of one of these sovereign nations at the forefront of renewable energy innovations; Switzerland.
Interesting Facts About Energy in Switzerland
Although Switzerland has seen a significant surge in renewable energies such as ambient heat, biomass, wind power and solar power since 2005, their main energy sources hinge on oil, natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower.
- 50.6% of Switzerland’s energy comes from petroleum and fuel sources, making them the main sources, electricity follows with a bit above half of that percentage with 25%, then gas with 13.5% and finally wood at 4.4%
- Hydropower plants are the primary sources of electricity, nuclear power generates about 33.5%, and thermal power plants (that do not use renewable energy) generate 2.3%
- Many Swiss citizens have strong opposition to nuclear power, and they have derailed several nuclear power plant projects. An example is the case of Canton of Aargau (Kaiseraugst) when in 1975, public protests led to the abandonment of a nuclear power plant project.
- Presently, Switzerland has set goals for an energy transition. In the Energy Strategy 2050, one of its most ambitious aims is to phase-out nuclear power use.
- 59.9% of Switzerland’s total domestic electricity production comes from its 638 hydroelectric power plants.
- The largest dam in Switzerland is The 285-metre-high Grande-Dixence dam (canton of Valais) is the third-highest gravity dam in the world and the largest dam in Switzerland.
- As of 2015, the per capita electricity consumption in Switzerland was 7,033 kWh putting it higher than the 2014 rate for France, which stood at 6,233 kWh, Germany at 6,225 kWh and the Netherlands at 6,108 kWh. However, it maintained a lower rate than Norway, which stayed at 21,091 kWh, Finland at 14,477 kWh, Sweden at 12,597 kWh, Belgium at 7,225kWh and Austria at 7,081 kWh.
(Source: Discover Switzerland)
Growth Of Switzerland’s Renewable Energy Policies
The Energy Strategy 2050 emphasises ‘increased energy savings (energy efficiency), the expansion of hydropower and new renewable energies, and, if necessary, on fossil-fuel-based electricity production.’
The system Kostendeckende Einspeisevergütung (KEV), which is the feed-in tariff (FIT) and its predecessor, the Mehrkostenfinanzierung (MKF), as well as specified targets, are the key instigators for market demand in renewable energy. Even though the budget made available has been rather limited compared to market demand.
The institutional framework in Switzerland, which supports renewable energy, has developed to grow continually without major hitches. With support from the SwissEnergy programme, this process has brought together myriad stakeholders, promoted innovative ideas, providing pertinent information, pushed market deployments and supported collaboration across different sectors.
As soon as KEV was introduced, an objective for sharing renewable energy within the national energy mix by 2030 was also introduced, providing a concrete signal for renewable energy sector investors. Within the Swiss Energy Act was included the target of an annual additional renewable electricity generation of 5400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) by 2030, of which 2000 GWh are to come via hydropower. These long-term targets build upon an important element in the overall framework for RES.
The government implemented a set of measures due to The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Action Plans of 2008 to improve renewable energy technologies’ market conditions. These measures included:
- Financial support for the replacement of existing heating systems with renewable energy, for example, heat pumps and biomass through global budgets distributed to the cantons dedicated to supporting measures
- Revision of the building standard for new buildings
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects in Switzerland and Expert Projections
The world’s first high-altitude floating solar power plant is currently operating in the Swiss Alps. According to experts in the field, this technology could become a major part of the photovoltaic industry worldwide. Photovoltaic energy is produced by turning sunlight into electricity, and in 2013 Guillaume Fuchs got the idea to spearhead this high-altitude floating solar power plant in an alpine environment.
According to SwissInfo.ch, “The solar plant at Lac des Toules consists of 1,400 panels, laid on 36 floating structures made of aluminium and polyethene plastic anchored to the bottom of the lake. Current production exceeds 800,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, which is the equivalent of consumption for about 220 households”. Constructing a photovoltaic power plant in a human-made lake at very high altitudes means that the weather conditions are harsher and more intense with a thinner atmosphere and extreme UV rays. More electricity is generated thanks to the two-sided panels that capture the sun rays above and the reflected sun rays from the water’s surface.
Experts believe that floating photovoltaic stations such as this one are the future of solar energy because there is less need for unwarranted land use. There will also be a reduction in the competition between agriculturists, construction companies and the renewable energy sector regarding land. The water placement also leads to increased yield capabilities because it cools the panels as they sit effortlessly, extending their lifespan altogether.
Per year, nuclear power plants in Switzerland produce about 25 TWh of electricity. For the government to replace that amount of power, approximately 25,000 football fields would need to be covered with photovoltaic panels to cater to consumer needs, hence the need for more innovation.
We, at Hive Power, believe that the use of innovations plays a huge role in driving the renewable energy sector and technologies. Our Smart Grid Analytics solution offers industry participants the capacity to manage electric energy and electric grids, using data-driven AI-powered solutions, efficiently.