Laboratory monitors electricity consumption
The majority of the study, which ran from 2016-2019, actually took place at DTU’s Lyngby Campus—about 160 kilometres from Rønne in a straight line. This is where PowerLabDK is based—a living energy laboratory where researchers from DTU can monitor the Bornholm electricity system in real time via a control centre.
The screens in the control centre show how much electricity the island is producing, what proportions are coming from various sources (wind, solar, and biomass), whether Bornholm is supplementing supply with imported electricity from Sweden, and the island’s total electricity consumption.
In the study involving 800 Bornholm households, researchers were able to collect data about Bornholm’s consumption, and whether the sensor technology and control boxes changed this.
According to Jacob Østergaard, Bornholm is ideal for this kind of energy research because the consumption pattern is a miniature version of the total Danish electricity consumption.
“In reality, we are dealing with a ‘laboratory’ that will end up matching the energy system of the future. We can develop and test technologies here to support the energy system and then disseminate these technologies out in the world.”
Apps can guide consumption
The research in PowerLab aims to help ensure there is sufficient power at all times of the day, even when an increasing share of this power comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, which do not necessarily produce energy around the clock.
With the establishment of the energy islands, the future energy supply will largely be based on wind, and this will require that consumers use electricity—quite literally—as the wind blows, to a greater extent.
“Integrating a lot of wind energy will require creating a power grid that is flexible and intelligent, so we can postpone consumption when it is less windy and store surplus energy when there is high wind,” explains Professor Jacob Østergaard.
The experiment with sensor technology has helped towards achieving this. Based on the results of the project, standard models have been developed for how flexible electricity consumption is incorporated into the energy system, and they have been used, for example by the company True Energy.
True Energy has created an app for everyday consumers that ensures that their electric car is charged or the household’s energy-consuming devices kick in at times that benefit the budget and the environment the most.
IBM has also developed a flexible platform that can be used by players operating between the electricity market and consumers. Using the platform, these players can ensure that consumers’ unnecessary consumption drops out when the price is high or there is a shortage of green power, and reconnects when the price falls and the power is greener.
Finally, researchers at DTU are using what they have learned from the project in their ongoing work to develop models that can control the electricity grid in an intelligent way using artificial intelligence and digitalization.