Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IBM blockchain helps in pilot for integrating renewable energy

Steve Rogerson
May 9, 2017

German energy storage company Sonnen and Dutch power grid operator Tennet have partnered in a pilot project integrating storage batteries into the power supply system via a blockchain service from IBM.
In what is said to be the first of its kind, and a step forward for the future integration of renewable energies, the companies used a blockchain service developed by IBM, and residential storage batteries from Sonnen. The Tennet project intends to ascertain the extent to which these technologies help reduce the need for emergency measures, such as the regulation of wind parks, when the grid experiences bottlenecks.
By interlinking residential storage batteries using Sonnen e-services, the batteries’ intelligent charging management software adjusts independently to reflect changes in the Tennet grid status. Following this launch, Tennet and Sonnen are facilitating better integration of renewable energies into the power supply system.
“Germany’s retreat from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy means more renewable energies at all levels of the grid, which presents significant challenges,” said Urban Keussen, CEO of Tennet TSO. “We must be flexible with regards to our management of energy production, namely solar and wind, that is inconsistent and highly contingent on the weather. Utilising blockchain technology offers us new ways to network even locally distributed systems both safely and intelligently across multiple regions with one provider. This helps us to limit the use of network-stabilising measures, such as the costly regulation of wind farms.”
In the future, said Keussen, this will waste less wind and solar power because of difficulties in transportation.
“Tennet is pioneering this process of better integrating decentralised renewable energies and ensuring energy supply,” he said. “With this innovative project, we are offering citizens a way to help actively shape how Germany reduces its dependence on nuclear and fossil-fuel energy.”
He said projects such as this complemented network expansion and were key elements of the energy transition, as more intensive use of power generation data and new grid flexibility were all helping in safely operating the power grid in spite of the increasing proportion of fluctuating renewable energy.
Transportation bottlenecks in the power grid are an increasing occurrence due to the growing feed-in of decentralised renewable energies. To help avoid these traffic jams on the power grid highway, Tennet and the other grid operators intervene in conventional and renewable power generation, by re-dispatching energy using grid reserves and regulating wind farms – effectively reducing the amount of power that has to be transported.
In 2016 alone, these measures cost Germany approximately €800m, a large part of which was for wind farm regulation. Ultimately these high costs are passed on to power consumers in the form of network charges. As well as enabling network expansion, the additional flexibility generated by batteries can help limit the use of expensive, manual network stabilising measures, saving consumers money.
“Sonnen is already networking thousands of users and generators of renewable energies via our Sonnen Community,” said Philipp Schröder, managing director at Sonnen. “However, the future of power generation will be composed of millions of small, decentralised power sources, including both prosumers and consumers. The blockchain technology is what makes mass simultaneous exchange between all these parties possible in the first place, and is thus the missing link to a decentralised, completely CO2-free energy future.”
In the pilot project, Sonnen and Tennet will provide additional grid flexibility in the form of interlinked residential storage batteries that are available to grid operators to help manage bottlenecks in the network. These networked storage batteries can absorb and release excess power in seconds, as needed, reducing energy transportation bottlenecks in the power grid. By taking advantage of this grid flexibility and promoting a deeper use of power generation data, this project is just one way Tennet is ensuring the power grid has the capacity to cope with the challenges presented by Germany’s exit from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy.
For Sonnen, this blockchain technology is a next step towards the future using clean, decentralised energy.
The digital process of verifying and documenting the performance values of these distributed flexible energy devices is delivered using IBM’s blockchain, built with Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain framework implementation and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by the Linux Foundation.
IBM will develop this platform to ensure the verifiability and transparency of the transactions of the small-scale batteries. This plays a significant role in ensuring that transactions between market players are transparent and verifiable, which is expected to simplify considerably how suppliers of locally distributed flexible energy will provide services to support power grid operators in future. The blockchain facilitates and streamlines implementation, fulfilling Tennet’s requirements for data security and precision while ensuring restricted access and privacy.
Tennet has its main activities in the Netherlands and Germany. With over 22,000km of high-voltage connections, it supplies electricity to 41m end-users. The company employs around 3000 people, has a turnover of €3.2bn and an asset value of €19bn.