Clean energy from local producers

first_imgIs it possible to boost sales of locally produced solar energy by allowing households to trade it through a peer-to-peer platform? The year-long Quartierstrom research project in Walenstadt is investigating how energy markets might operate in the future. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. More information: This text has been published in the current issue of the Globe magazine: www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/globe.html One of the goals of the Quartierstrom project is to discover how this plays out in practice. Twenty-eight of the participants have their own photovoltaic systems, and nine are pure consumers, including a retirement home. The combined systems produce approximately 300,000kWh a year, while the community’s actual electricity demand comes to around 250,000kWh. Several battery systems serve as buffers. Specially built Smart Meters (a variant of the low-budget computer Raspberry Pi) continuously measure the energy generated and consumed by individual households. A specially designed and implemented software
carries out the actual transactions. These are based on blockchain technology, which is designed to ensure trading networks are tamper-proof.Both sides benefitThe local market participants set their price limits using an app. Producers state the price they are willing to accept for their surplus energy, while consumers specify the maximum price they are willing to pay. An algorithm is then used to determine every 15 minutes who can purchase electricity from whom. It does this by matching the cheapest provider with the highest bidder. Households that are unable to find a partner to trade with simply purchase their electricity from the energy supplier at the standard market rate.Prices in the Quartierstrom market fluctuate based on supply and demand. Figures so far show that they range between the feed-in tariff of 4 cents and the energy supplier’s electricity price of 20.75 cents per kWh. “So it’s profitable for both producers and consumers,” says ETH doctoral student Liliane Ableitner, who is studying user behaviour and acceptance in the project. She is delighted with the degree of user involvement in the trading process. “Many of them are logging into the app more often than we expected.” Detailed results won’t be available until the project comes to an end in January 2020, but it’s already clear that the trading scheme is boosting the consumption of local energy within the community. In the first two weeks of February 2019, for example, over 80 percent of the solar power generated was consumed within the local district. By way of comparison, an individual household can only make use of approximately 30 percent of the electricity it produces if it is not connected to a local networked market.Energy supplier as insuranceYet despite producing much of the energy it needs, the district is still reliant on the local energy supplier. As well as purchasing surplus solar, the company also supplies grid power in the event that the sun isn’t shining and demand is high. “In this scenario the energy supplier will act as a kind of insurance policy to cover all eventualities,” says Ableitner. She believes that this transformation of the energy market is set to continue. That view is shared by managers at the Water and Electricity Works Walenstadt, who are convinced by the project’s merits. They hope to gain insights into new business models and help shape their development from an early stage.The researchers’ next step will be to investigate how battery systems and flexible loads such as heat pumps and electric vehicles could serve to balance out fluctuations in energy production. “It’s far easier to do that within a community than within an individual household,” says Schopfer. By storing surplus energy on site and using it at a later time, the community could one day become even more self-sufficient. “Our goal is to see as little energy as possible leaving the community.” Explore further Provided by ETH Zurichlast_img

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