Crowd balancing platform

The crowd balancing platform «Equigy» is an innovative solution in the control energy market. The shift in electricity generation towards a large number of smaller generators with volatile production is presenting new challenges for transmission system operators.

In future, electricity generation will become less flexible and more difficult to predict due to the increase in new renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind power. This development presents challenges for transmission system operators, who need to ensure a balance between production and consumption. The economical, safe and secure use of decentralised flexibility resources, such as energy storage systems, electric cars, battery storage devices and heat pumping technology is a promising approach for increasing the flexibility of the electricity grid on the consumer side. New digitalisation approaches offer opportunities to integrate scalable decentralised energy storage systems into the electricity system more easily and with greater scalability.

Source: EQUIGY
Source: Equigy

With the crowd balancing platform «Equigy», Swissgrid has launched a pilot project in Switzerland that targets the use of storage technologies in the area of primary control energy. The goal of the project is to balance short-term fluctuations in the transmission grid with the support of small decentralised energy sources. To do so, «Equigy» uses blockchain technology and the Internet of Things. It pursues an open source strategy to ensure freedom from discrimination and enable the faster dissemination of the platform. The project started in spring 2020 and lasted until the end of the year. In December 2020, the Dutch/German transmission system operator TenneT, the Italian transmission system operator Terna and Swissgrid have jointly established a joint venture for the use of this technology in Europe.

Collaboration at the European level sets standards

Transmission system operators are the ideal drivers of this ambitious initiative. They operate free of commercial interests to ensure a secure and stable European interconnected grid.

The collaboration at a European level creates a level of standardisation for the integration of small, fragmented units in the balancing process that increases efficiency. The cooperation between the various transmission system operators creates a large market and establishes the conditions to allow manufacturers of different technologies, e.g. of electric vehicles and operators of new technologies and aggregators to prequalify for this market. All members of the joint venture can benefit from the knowledge transfer and sharing of the development costs.

The more technologies, the greater the available pool of flexible and renewable electricity.

The development of the «crowd balancing platform» is highly scalable. The platform is designed to grow with the increase in renewable energies and sustainable energy solutions. Besides this, Equigy is designed to enable other European transmission system operators to join the joint venture and launch the platform in their market. The more technologies that are connected in the network, the greater the available pool of flexible and renewable electricity, which supports long-term European grid stability.

Transformation in the energy system – an opportunity for Swissgrid

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The world of energy is changing rapidly on the supply as well as the demand side. The increase in renewable energy is leading to increasing decentralisation and greater volatility in electricity generation. Solar and wind energy as well as hydropower are heavily dependent on the weather, the time of day, and the season. Besides this, energy consumption is undergoing a profound change. The increasing popularity of electric cars, heat pumping technology and other consumer-based devices is leading to greater demand for electricity and the peak times of electricity consumption are shifting. Volatility is increasing. This is leading to fluctuations in supply and demand. New sources that increase flexibility in production and storage are required to give transmission system operators the best possible chance of ensuring and controlling the balance.

Production and consumption should always be in balance
Production and consumption should always be in balance

The transmission grid only works if the production and consumption of electricity are in equilibrium. A frequency of 50 Hertz must be kept as stable as possible. In the event of an imbalance between production and consumption, the transmission system operator (TSO) draws on control energy. This is a reserve that power plants and other providers keep available on behalf of the transmission system operator and which can be accessed at short notice. If electricity consumption increases or a power plant fails, the TSO allows generators to feed more energy into the grid. If electricity consumption drops, less energy is fed in. The transmission system operators apply a three-stage approach to the use of control energy, making use of primary, secondary and tertiary control reserve.

The blockchain-based crowd balancing platform complements the existing products in the control energy market and makes it easier and more efficient to integrate small, fragmented and decentralised units into this balancing process.

The pilot projects in Switzerland

The potential of the crowd balancinc platform in Switzerland

Swissgrid has investigated the potential of the crowd balancing platform in a pilot project in Switzerland. The project The project in cooperation with Alpiq started in summer spring 2020 and will last until the end of the year was successfully completed at the end of the year. With its experience with flexible, rapid implementation of new projects and its large, flexible technology and production portfolio, Alpiq proved to be the ideal partner for the Swiss pilot project. Alpiq assumed both the role of commercial aggregator and the role of technical aggregator. Alpiq controlls the plants and offers the aggregated flexibility on the market for system services and provides Swissgrid with primary control energy. In the pilot project, a 1.2 MW battery was used as a flexible energy resource.

The Swiss pilot project of the Crowd Balancing Platform has reached important milestones and has proven its potential.

The process of calling up primary control power was successfully tested in the pilot project. This includes, in particular, the registration of flexible resources, the submission of offers and awarding of bids and the real-time monitoring of data exchange between Alpiq and Swissgrid. The question whether a blockchain can support the process of providing primary control power and whether aggregators or storage owners with backend systems can integrate the blockchain interfaces was answered with a yes. The features of the crowd balancing platform that have been developed and tested have thus successfully demonstrated the potential of blockchain solution for the future monitoring of primary control energy business processes. This is an important first milestone.

The future use of decentralised energy sources and consumers

During the second quarter of 2021 Swissgrid and ewz launched a new project in connection with the crowd balancing platform Equigy. The project involves the development and testing of an innovative approach to future use of decentralised energy sources and consumers such as domestic battery storage systems, photovoltaic plants, heat pumping technology or electric vehicles, in line with the needs of transmission and distribution grids.

The pilot project consists of two phases: a preparatory and an execution phase. During the preparatory phase, the framework conditions and the business requirements for collaboration among all players – the DSO, the TSO and the aggregator that manages the flexible resources – are being developed. In the subsequent execution phase, these requirements are to be incorporated in the development of pilot software. This makes it possible to carry out tests of the relevant coordination processes on the Equigy platform. The pilot research project was launched in the second quarter of 2021 and is likely to be completed by the middle of 2022.

Secure and protected new business processes thanks to blockchain technology

The crowd balancing platform uses blockchain technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). These standardise and simplify the coordination of numerous small storage units (electric cars, batteries, etc.) and ensure secure supply processes and protected utilisation. The blockchain technology gives the transmission system operator an insight into the control energy capacity of the energy storage system.

The platform was developed using Hyperledger Fabric technology, which carries out role-based checks of the transactions using blockchain technology.




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