Developing next generation virtual power plant
Our European research and innovation project edgeFLEX aims at further developing the concept of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) to manage a wider range of generation and storage assets in a new way. By offering a set of fast and dynamic service-to-grid operations, the emergence of a new market for ancillary services will be enabled. The ten project partners propose a new architecture of VPPs with communications, supported by 5G, corresponding to multiple layers of dynamics, paving the way for a fully renewable energy system. With the expansion of the VPP concept to the idea of local energy communities, technical solutions are linked to societal expectations.
Today: South East Technological University, SETU
The making of a platform
In the edgeFLEX project, we had the considerable challenge of delivering on the work that was scoped out before the COVID-19 pandemic in the new environment of remote and hybrid working. We were able to overcome this challenge by drawing on the previous work done within the Horizon 2020 programme as well as the considerable experience of the consortium members, allowing us to make efficient use of our time and resources. The fruits of these are evident in the development of the edgeFLEX platform.
The purpose of the edgeFLEX platform is to facilitate the deployment and interoperability of the diverse range of control services developed within the edgeFLEX project, which are focused on grid management, virtual power plant (VPP) optimisation and flexibility trading. Work on the platform began by defining a set of requirements from which software, communications and business architectures were created. Here, previous work was utilised as the reference architecture from the H2020 SOGNO project was extended to incorporate the concept of flexibility trading. This architecture was then refined to create the reference architecture from which the platform was developed. Although this work was carried out remotely, it proceeded in much the same way as it had before the pandemic, sans lively banter during coffee mornings.
Much like working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, communication is an important aspect of the edgeFLEX platform, as data must be received from remote trial sites to be utilised by the various services. Based on the communications architecture developed from the gathered requirements, the platform required a data bus service to enable data to be communicated between the services and field devices. An open-source application called DockerMQTT that was developed as part of the RESERVE project was utilised to this end. Open-source software has a large role to play in research in terms of generating valuable outputs and increasing transparency and reproducibility . The storage and graphing of time-series data from the field was also developed based on work done as part of the SOGNO project. Development of the edgeFLEX platform benefitted greatly from the ability to expand upon software developed previously by project partners.
A large portion of the work in edgeFLEX took place in the backdrop of the pandemic, which brought about many challenges. Gone were the office talks and project meetups where people could meet face to face, instead these were replaced by Zoom meetings and in-depth technical discussions with the family pet. However, the edgeFLEX platform demonstrates that valuable work can be achieved in such a context and that a successful research project is built upon a foundation of previous work and experience, as well as on the body of established research. As one French writer, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wisely said, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” The mode of work may have changed, but research continues on as it always has.
 Barba, L.A. (2022) “Defining the role of Open source software in research reproducibility,” Computer, 55(8), pp. 40–48. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1109/mc.2022.3177133.
The edgeFLEX Trial in Milano, Italy
The edgeFLEX Trial in Wunsiedel, Germany
edgeFLEX contributes to 3GPP standard
The use case for the edgePMU, the innovative implementation concept developed in edgeFLEX project, was included in the 3GPP standard. The new concept will be implemented and tested in DSO power grid network and in the laboratory with the use of a live 5G network. 3GPP technical report 22.867, which describes the edgePMU and the related edge monitoring functionality use case, is available on the following link: https://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/22867.htm"
3GPP is a global initiative developing specifications for wireless communications. It brings together seven of the world’s leading wireless standards organizations.
Towards a new era of energy flexibility
With the increased share of renewable energy in the energy mix, causing the energy market to change, now is the time to revise the VPP concept. VPPs need to support not only the promotion of intermittent renewables (RES) but also the integration of all Distributed Energy Resources (DER) into the full scope of grid operations. Such a leap raises challenges: optimal combination of DER and RES in a new generation of VPPs is needed to jointly provide grid supportive flexibility with slow reaction time known from day-head and intra-day markets, as well as real-time reaction to provide fast frequency and inertial response and dynamic-phasor driven voltage control ancillary services. In a nutshell, in a DER-based power electronics-driven network VPPs need to play all the roles that synchronous machines play in a traditional system.
Flexibility can be provided by going beyond electrochemical storage and exploring opportunities offered by Power2X or inverters. Demand Side Management or low-cost solutions such as Power-to-Heat could be deployed in a neighbourhood expanding the concept of VPPs to the concept of a Local Energy Communities (LECs). edgeFLEX links technical solutions to societal expectations. Short reaction times can be addressed by 5G-powered edge clouds linking dispersed devices in near real-time. In this respect, a new concept of VPPs, with communications corresponding to multiple layers of dynamics, becomes possible. edgeFLEX proposes a new architecture for VPPs deploying such a multi-layer solution, paving the way for a fully renewable energy system. VPPs are brought to a new level, enabling them to interact on markets offering various ancillary services to system operators. edgeFLEX develops this next generation VPP concept and demonstrates it in the context of three field trials and accompanying laboratory tests. The project explores innovative optimisations, financial tools and business scenarios for VPPs and assesses the economic and societal impact. The consortium actively works on removing barriers by contributing to standards and European level regulation.
Ericsson is one of the leading providers of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to service providers. Ericsson enables the full value of connectivity by creating game-changing technology and services that are easy to use, adopt, and scale, making our customers successful in a fully connected world.
ALPIQ DIGITAL AG
Alpiq Digital is in the business of enabling the transition to the renewable energy landscape of the future. The focus of Alpiq Digital is on delivering services and solutions for managing and deploying RES assets, both from an operational and financial point of view. We target the entire value chain, from consumers to producers with complex prosumers which are our main focus.
B.A.U.M CONSULT GMBH
B.A.U.M. Consult GmbH supports enterprises, municipalities, regions and governmental institutions throughout Germany and abroad with consultancy and training on sustainable development. As a knowledge management company, B.A.U.M. understands its role as a link between research, development, production and marketing of sustainable products and services.
CENTRUL ROMAN AL ENERGETIKA
The Romanian Energy Centre (CRE) is a non-governmental organisation representing state-owned as well as private companies and enterprises operating in the Romanian energy sector. The main objective of the Romanian Energy Centre is to ensure a favourable environment for boosting competitiveness and developing the Romanian energy sector.
INEA INFORMATIZACIJA ENERGETIKA AVTOMATIZACIJA D.O.O.
Inea is the leading company in Slovenia in the field of energy management solutions, industrial automation, process computer control and manufacturing informatics. Inea develops, installs and supports industrial energy management and control systems. Its major interests lie in the areas of efficient energy use, CHP implementation and development and implementation of energy monitoring and targeting systems.
RHEINISCH-WESTFAELISCHE TECHNISCHE HOCHSCHULE AACHEN
As one of the Universities in Germany awarded the status of "Excellence University", RWTH Aachen is a leading technical university in Germany and Europe. RWTH joins the project with the E.ON Energy Research Centre, Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS) which fosters innovative energy research with a strong link with industry in an interdisciplinary approach.
SWW WUNSIEDEL GMBH
SWW Wunsiedel GmbH is a modern, innovative and future-oriented municipal utility company. SWW is responsible for electricity, gas, water, heating and telecommunication supply. SWW and its subordinated service companies have been focussing on the consistent production, use and expansion of renewable energy and sustainable technologies for years.
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND
UCD is Ireland’s largest teaching and research institution and its leading international university. Underpinned by its strategy for internationalisation, UCD is putting in place high-end research collaborations and partnerships and is the leader in Energy Research in Ireland. At UCD, researchers are working to find solutions to the energy and environment challenges of the 21st century.
ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - UNIVERSITA DI BOLOGNA
Almost 1000 years old, the University of Bologna (UNIBO) is known as the oldest University of the western world. Nowadays, UNIBO remains one of the most important institutions of higher education across Europe and the second largest university in Italy with 11 Schools, 33 Departments and about 87.000 students; it is organised in a multi-campus structure with 5 operating sites (Bologna, Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna and Rimini), and, since 1998, also a permanent headquarter in Buenos Aires.
WATERFORD INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
WIT is the major provider of higher education in the South East region of Ireland and one of the largest Institutes of Technology's in Ireland. WIT hosts the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG), which is an internationally recognized centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation.