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In the future, batteries in homes and buildings will be key to stabilizing the power grid by enabling better integration of renewable energies. In Germany, that future is becoming a reality today with the use of blockchain technology.

European electricity transmission system operator TenneT, energy storage firm sonnen, renewable energy producer Vandebron and technology giant IBM are joining forces to develop an innovative blockchain solution for managing the electricity grid in the Netherlands and Germany. This innovative technology represents the next step in enabling decentralized flexible generation, which will play a critical role in the management of the electricity grid in the age of renewable energy.

Both sonnen and TenneT emphasize that this collaboration is the first of its kind, and a pioneering step forward for the future integration of renewable energies. Using a blockchain solution 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 farms, when the grid experiences bottlenecks.

By interlinking residential storage batteries using sonnen eServices, the batteries’ intelligent charging management software adjusts independently to reflect changes in the TenneT grid status. Following this launch, TenneT and sonnen claim to already be facilitating better integration of renewable energies into the power supply system in Germany and the Netherlands.

“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 GmbH. “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. Utilizing 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-stabilizing measures, such as the costly regulation of wind farms.”

Transportation bottlenecks in the power grid are an increasing occurrence due to the growing feed-in of decentralized renewable energies. To help reduce these “traffic jams” on the power grid highway, TenneT and the other grid operators intervene in both conventional and renewable power generation, by re-dispatching energy using grid reserves and regulating wind farms – effectively minimizing the amount of power that has to be transported.

In 2016 alone, such bottlenecks cost Germany approximately €800 million, a large part of which was due to wind farm regulation. Ultimately these high costs are passed on to power consumers in the form of network charges. In addition to enabling network expansion, the additional ‘flexibility’ created by batteries can help limit the use of expensive, manual network stabilizing measures, saving consumers money.

“In the future, we will waste less wind and solar power because of inability to transport it. TenneT is pioneering this process of better integrating decentralized renewable energies and ensuring energy supply. 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,” Mr. Keussen explained.

“Projects such as this complement network expansion and are key elements of the energy transition, as more intensive use of power generation data and new grid flexibility, are all helping us safely operate the power grid in spite of the increasing proportion of fluctuating renewable energy,” he added.

In the pilot project, sonnen and TenneT will provide additional grid flexibility in the form of interlinked residential storage batteries that will be made available to grid operators. These networked storage batteries can absorb and release excess power in seconds, as needed, reducing energy transportation bottlenecks in the power grid.

The digital process of verifying and documenting the performance values of these distributed flexible energy devices is delivered using IBM Blockchain, built with Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain framework implementation and a landmark project hosted by The Linux Foundation. Blockchain facilitates and streamlines implementation, fulfilling requirements for data security and precision that had previously been missing, while also ensuring restricted access and privacy.

Philipp Schröder, Managing Director and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at sonnen, predicts that, “the future of power generation will be composed of millions of small, decentralized 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 decentralized, completely CO2-free energy future.”

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