The project was initiated against the backdrop of the energy transition and the increasing decarbonisation of society. The promotion of new renewable energies means that the number of decentralised energy generation units is constantly increasing. In addition, electro-mobility is also experiencing growth. These are continuing trends and will, in the long term, result in increasing fluctuations and peak loads within the electricity distribution grids. Between July 2016 and October 2017, in order to study new technologies and processes that enable fluctuations to be balanced out, the four companies Alpiq, AEK, Adaptricity and Landis+Gyr, together with canton of Solothurn, investigated in the municipality of Riedholz how artificial intelligence can be used to autonomously balance the energy flow within an electricity distribution grid in a decentralised manner. The findings will, amongst other things, be used for the operation and planning of grids in the future, with the aim of minimising grid development measures and ensuring optimal loads within the electricity distribution grids.
Alpiq technology optimises smart grids
The core element of the SoloGrid project is the Alpiq energy management system GridSense, which on the one hand ensures the optimal utilisation of the electricity grid and on other optimises the consumption of prosumers to meet the requirements of the grid. This innovative technology was developed by Alpiq in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) and consists of self-learning algorithms that measure parameters such as grid load, electric power consumption and electricity generation, factor in weather forecasts and electricity rates, and use artificial intelligence to learn the behaviour of electricity consumers and take this behaviour into account for the optimisation process. Within the framework of the SoloGrid project, in which 35 residential apartments and single-family houses participated, GridSense controlled the building technology, such as heat pumps, boilers, charging stations for e-vehicles and battery storage systems in a forecast-guided, decentralised and autonomous manner. The project demonstrated that GridSense is able to sustainably reduce peak loads and voltage fluctuations, which for example can be caused by e-mobility or photovoltaic systems. Thus, the technology represents an efficient and feasible alternative to the conventional expansion of the distribution grids. In this way GridSense supports distribution grid operators as a tool to combat transmission bottlenecks. Moreover, in a concluding survey, more than 95 percent of the end customers favoured the continuation of the project. The flagship project has already met with interest both in the Swiss market and in Austria and Germany, in particular amongst those distribution grid operators that are already focusing on efficient and decentralised solutions for smart grids. With the successful completion of the flagship project, Alpiq is strengthening its position as an innovative energy services provider.
Important insights for distribution grid operators
The SoloGrid flagship project enabled AEK Energie AG to gain important insights for the operation and planning of its grid in the future. In addition to the GridSense technology, the companies involved used another innovation during the project, the Adaptricity.Sim software. It was developed by Adaptricity, a spin-off of ETH Zurich (part of the LEONI Group since 2017). The new software, within which the GridSense algorithms were integrated, simulates the decentralised dynamics of a distribution grid. The simulation was necessary, because it was virtually impossible to represent the wide variety of possible grid situations in real life. Hence Adaptricity.Sim simulated all the grid scenarios that were required for the analysis and supplemented them with the precise measurements from the pilot grid in the municipality of Riedholz.
Energy future requires intelligent technologies
Landis+Gyr contributed important experience it gained from a variety of smart metering projects that have already been implemented in Switzerland and abroad. The meters that were used in Riedholz measure numerous parameters and, amongst other things, transmit the grid condition to GridSense. With this technology, Landis+Gyr helped ensure the success of the SoloGrid project and made a valuable contribution towards the electricity supply of the future.