This blog previously informed about Green Step, an organization based in Germany that is fostering a local renewable energy initiative in a 7,000-person town in Cameroon. While the emphasis of the project is on the construction of micro-generation facilities from local resources and with locally available talent, a component of the project is DER (Distributed Energy Resources) Integration.
Winner of the 2007 Picnic Green Challenge, the Qbox system will be used to pilot the concept in the Netherlands.
Because of fluctuating patterns of consumption, homes with wind and solar energy generators can find themselves with surplus energy at some times of the day, but not enough at others. Surplus energy typically gets sold back to the main grid, but as with most electric power transmission, ~30% of it can get lost along the way.
If a group of homes could work together to manage their collective energy generation and use so that higher levels of demand in one home can be matched with surpluses in others, this would help eliminate waste and make it more efficient. Participating homes essentially form a “mini-grid” that shares energy internally before exchanging any with the main grid.
Any distributed system designed to facilitate load sharing among a distributed power network needs to incorporate approaches that can accommodate scalable and “scale-free” networks. In other words, such localization requires intelligence, a.k.a., “smart grids” since localization brings its own set of problem. (“Anybody can make a mistake, but it takes a computer to really foul things up.” So, imagine a whole bunch of computers managing distributed energy resources at various levels.)
A feature of smart grids is a programmable in-home control device and the necessary system to fully automate home energy use.
Demand side management is when a utility company has control over energy consumption on the customer’s side of the meter. Such programs can include conservation / energy efficiency, load management, and load building; and a central concept of Demand Side Management is that an interconnected network of distributed energy resources can function either connected to, or separate from, the Grid.
The Dutch pilot and other such localized projects feature a control device that the utility company installs in the home. With a Qbox, for instance, installed in each house and connected to a central Qserver, the utility company can monitor the local network, “measuring energy flows in each home and optimizing them for maximum network-wide efficiency.”
It can also turn on devices such as washing machines and dryers so that they are run at the optimal time. A homeowner could tell their Qbox that they want their laundry done by 6pm and that it will take roughly 1.5 hours, for example. They can then go to work and the Qbox will decide when is the best time to run it, taking into account their production profiles and energy rates as well as those of their neighbors.