Flex4Grid

A Service Framework for Stable Power Grids

© Photo Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

The growing share of electricity from renewable sources is a challenge to power grids. In particular, the fluctuation in the amount of power generated by private photovoltaic systems causes problems. On the other hand, private power generation can help to smooth out fluctuations in the grid. The European Flex4Grid project is investigating solutions to this problem.

In the last few years our energy policy has fostered electricity from renewable sources. However, green power may have a destabilizing effect on the power grid. Due to their high price, only few batteries for on-site storing the locally produced electricity are installed today. Thus the electricity that exceeds the current local demand must be fed into the power grid. This may destabilize the grid if the distribution system operators cannot react properly. The demand spikes in the morning and in the early evening hours are an additional well-known problem.

In the Flex4Grid project Fraunhofer FIT is developing a service framework that will open up new ways to deal with the flexible supply and demand rates of decentralized energy sources. Flex4Grid uses cloud computing as a basis for grid management and builds a system to analyze and forecast load levels in order to prevent blackouts due to over- or undersupply of electricity in the grid.

SWB Energie und Wasser, the local electricity retailer for the City of Bonn, has invited their customers to become test-users for Flex4Grid. Up to 300 of them will be given a free installation kit to measure and control their electricity consumption. Installing the kit requires little effort: A small computer is linked to the test-user's Internet router and smart plugs get installed in between the wall-sockets and the household devices to be managed. Using a Flex4Grid app on her smartphone, the test-user can easily switch devices on or off and find out key electricity consumption figures. The app will also be used to invite the test-users to participate in activities aimed at reducing the typical demand spikes in the morning and in the evening. As an example, test-users might be nudged to use their smartphone to remotely switch on their washing machine at lunchtime.

Business models that make more flexibility attractive for electricity consumers are another major focus of Flex4Grid. Here we will evaluate ideas like gamification, price variations in line with fluctuations in supply and demand as well as proposed new regulations.

We will evaluate the Flex4Grid platform in pilot installations in two regional grids in Germany, among them the city of Bonn, and one grid in Slovenia.