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Controlling the power grid with artificial intelligence

In its grid area in Biel-Benken, EBM is carrying out the only field test of its kind in Switzerland with the GridSense technology developed by Alpiq. This technology stabilises the energy flow in the grid and reduces energy costs. The test is scheduled to last for 18 months.

In Biel-Benken, the future of energy has already arrived. As power generation becomes increasingly decentralised, consumers are becoming 'prosumers'. In other words, they need electrical energy from the grid but they generate some of it themselves with photovoltaic systems and store it in domestic batteries or electric vehicles. This new situation presents new challenges to distribution grid operators.

The patented technology GridSense is installed locally in buildings. It optimises the use of all suitably equipped power consumers, such as electric boilers, heat pumps, domestic batteries and charging stations for electric vehicles as well as decentralised power generators such as photovoltaic systems. At the heart of the intelligent technology are several algorithms, which continually measure parameters such as grid load, power consumption and generation and incorporate weather forecasts and electricity tariffs into their calculations. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the algorithms also learn how the different power consumers behave. The technology has an additional advantage in that it is autonomous and requires no communication link to the energy supply company.

For the 18-month-long field test, four properties had to be chosen in EBM's grid area which had a photovoltaic system, an electric boiler and a heat pump, all connected to the same transformer. Each property was also supplied with a storage battery. Two of the four houses have a charging station for electric vehicles. The owners of the four detached houses in Biel-Benken were all willing to take part in the exciting field test, the only one of its kind in Switzerland. For over a year, voluminous measuring equipment has been installed in the cellars of the four houses. But the most important parts are the small 'black boxes', the Household Appliance Controllers (HAC), which measure and control the behaviour of the various consumers.

The aim of the field test is to see how well GridSense performs in a modern single-family home. The technology avoids peak loads in the power grid and stabilises the distribution grid through the efficient use of power consumers. As decentralised production increases, the distribution grid will be put under ever growing pressure. By optimising power flows, the amount of new grid construction and expansion can be minimised and costs can be reduced. If GridSense performs well in practical tests, the technology could revolutionise the future of energy.

 Alpiq presented the new technology to the industry in mid-2014. GridSense is being developed at Fachhochschule Südschweiz (SUPSI), while the technology is being industrialised and marketed by Alpiq. In January 2015 the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) awarded GridSense the Watt d'Or 2015 energy award in the energy technologies category.

 Additional information:

  • Herbert Niklaus, Managing Director, EBM Netz AG, Tel. +41 61 415 42 84


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