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Building the grid of the future with Westenergie

12 Aug 2021
Erik Brenneis

Erik Brenneis

Internet of Things Director, Vodafone Business

The energy sector is at a crossroads.

On the one hand, suppliers need to deal with extreme competition from rival companies.

On the other, they face the need to curb their carbon emissions while managing increased demand, driven by factors like the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles adding pressure on local distribution networks.

Consumers are changing too, as they have access to a wide range of decentralised assets like solar panels, heat pumps or home batteries that enable them to invest in their own energy production and storage, massively helping decarbonise energy systems.

These assets, however, increase operational complexity for energy grids and make synchrony a factor to consider and monitor. That’s because distributed assets like solar panels don’t always provide a constant power stream and domestic storage system can even bank energy within grids, creating potentially dangerous fluctuations.

The result is “Grid Balancing”, the complex operation power operators need to perform to exactly match the supply of energy to demand, often needs to be achieved via creative means, like asking wind farms to turn the turbines off at night to avoid power cuts or blackouts.

Digital synchrony

Grids are like platforms.

Platforms on which the data or information about the status of all the assets connected to them needs to be accessible across the whole ecosystem.

And it’s thanks to digitalisation and the Internet of Things (IoT) that data can become not only visible but also manageable, allowing energy providers to keep supplying energy to their customers.

Working with Westenergie, Germany's largest regional energy service and infrastructure provider, we connected over 20,000 of their assets using our IoT connectivity.

The assets include solar panels, wind turbines, electricity meters in households as well as intelligent local network stations, substations and e-charging points.

Wind of change

Thanks to IoT, Westenergie can transmit information about the production of their 1,000 wind turbines to grid operators in real-time, maximising productivity and maintaining network stability.

But our IoT technology also enables the turbines to receive critical instructions, like the need to lower themselves during a storm to prevent an overload.

Think big, run local

It’s not just wind turbines that are linked to the network. Thanks to IoT, Westenergie’s local network stations are also connected and therefore remotely monitored, providing the energy company with important information on the current state of the network across the nation.

This means that if there’s a fault somewhere, the system management staff can remotely locate it and redirect the power elsewhere, restoring people's supply much more quickly and fixing the issue at speed. This also applies to large substations.

Green mobility needs power

Westenergie powers over 1,350 electric charging points for electric vehicles.

Our IoT connectivity enables them to let their customers know when a station is free and to pay using their phones. In case of a fault, the connected e-charging station can also be easily identified, minimising downtime.

And, to make the most of the potential IoT has to offer, we are working with Westenergie to expand these capabilities even further. For instance, usage information can be transformed into actionable insight, enabling the energy giant to identify the best locations for new charging points.

Drivers will also be able to communicate directly with the e-charging stations using their phones to reserve a space at a particular time.

Secure by design

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are unfortunately a common occurrence in today’s hyperconnected world.

These attacks overload servers, rendering them unusable, with potentially serious consequences for critical infrastructure.

Thanks to the range of security features of our IoT platform, including our DDoS service, the incoming data traffic is constantly analysed. Individually tailored firewalls also detect typical cyber-attack patterns, preventing hacker attacks even before they are carried out.

Electric future

According to the World Economic Forum, eight out of the world’s 10 largest economies have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century 1 a virtually impossible objective to accomplish without technology 2.

Working together with our customers, partners and government organisations, we are at the centre of the energy system evolution and we are proud to be able to facilitate the process of energy transition around the world.

Learn more about our own Net-Zero plans and how IoT can help drive sustainability.

 

1  https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?most_recent_value_%20desc=true

2  https://royalsociety.org/news/2020/12/digital-tech-vital-net-zero-royal-society-report/

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