Piloting the energy grid of the future

The energy industry is changing at pace. Traditional, consistent sources of generation such as coal and gas are highly polluting, and are being replaced with newer, greener technologies such as wind and solar. But these new, intermittent sources of generation create their own challenges for the most vital part of electricity infrastructure — the electricity grid. Changes to generation types and size, increases in both the type and number of inputs, as well as a reduction in standard ‘baseload’ capacity, has all meant that grids globally have to look at modernising — and fast.

Over the last year, Solo has been working with ESB Networks (ESBN) piloting different methods to support voltage on the Irish grid at a local level. Such voltage support is likely to become increasingly important in the future as we see the growth of new disruptive in-home technologies such as Electric Vehicles, heat pumps and microgeneration such as solar PV. These all present significant challenges to the grid due to peak demand and intermittent supply — so ESBN is keen to work with partners to develop technology and services to optimise grid performance in this ‘brave new world’ of increased renewable intermittency and demand volatility.

Through their EU H2020 project called RESERVE, ESBN have worked with Solo to demonstrate in a real-world environment new systems of demand flexibility to enable stable grid operation at distribution level.

Here at Solo this aligns with our mission to make a 100% renewable future a reality — and we know that ensuring the grid can manage the demands of changing customer electricity consumption levels and patterns at a local level is critical to achieving this. Over the past three years we’ve been working on developing our bespoke grid management platform, FlexiGrid, and it’s via this tool that we’ve been utilising in-home battery storage units to provide voltage support locally to the grid. By connecting with ESB’s own SERVO platform — an automated platform that communicates directly with service providers to instruct where and when such services are needed, and the level of support required — we’ve been demonstrating the value of small scale, aggregated battery storage in providing timely support to the grid at times of peak demand and/or low voltage.

This is only a small step towards a truly flexible grid, but this pilot programme shows the true potential of combining grid level technology with third party balancing provision to keep the lights on across Ireland. We’re really excited about the potential of this technology combination in driving towards our mission of a 100% renewable future.