Distributed P2P Energy Grid – One Way to 100 % Renewable Generation Based Energy System

Urgent environmental concerns have given birth to the slow but massive transformation of the global energy system. The zero-marginal cost of renewable energy is steering the system towards radically new possibilities while researchers and developers in Finland and around the globe explore how the electricity grid can be modernised towards the so-called Smart Grid.

Innovators at the University to Oulu seek to connect the electricity grid with communication networks and automation and to define novel mechanisms for energy market systems and structures. “We need solutions where the flexibility in the energy demand helps to match with the supply,” says professor Ari Pouttu who leads 6G Flagship’s “Smart Energy Grids” team. “These types of technologies are capable of balancing the unsteady supply of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.”

One promising approach is the introduction of a virtual power plant. A large number of small micro-generation units can be aggregated into one larger entity, which can then enter the energy market – sell and buy energy from the wholesale market. “The virtual power plant is an approach that we are about to trial in the BCDC project,” Pouttu says. “The production units are connected with 5G and real time data of the production is available. Coupled with accurate local weather estimates the day ahead, we can estimate the production and enter the market. On the other hand, the real time production values give us tools for handling the balancing market.”

Flexible demand in Smart Grids was analysed in Florian Kühnlenz’ doctoral thesis,  which was published in October within the BC-DC project. “His results show that there is a definite need to study the energy system as a whole,” Pouttu says. “Emergent behaviour between the interconnected layers of system may affect each other in an unpredicted ways. For example, the peak consumption control/shifting by price signals only do not always lead to desired outcome eventhough so often proposed in literature or even marketplace.”

Recently, there has been a rapid growth in Renewable Energy Sources (RES) such as photovoltaics (PV), wind generation,storage systems, electric vehicles, micro-generation and flexible loads at the premises of end users, which is highly relevant for the strive towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).  “To address the volatile nature of RES, we aim at developing fully distributed novel paradigm empowering P2P flexibility approaches that are able to optimise the usage of demand-response (DR) as well as RES,” Pouttu says. “We will then integrate them with the local power grid – a local virtual power plant.”

The team also develops advanced peer-to-peer (P2P) multi-agent or machine learning based DR-based frequency and voltage control methodologies. They allow local trading of energy and inclusion of accurate weather and power consumption data. As a result, flexibility of usage between prosumers increases inside a microgrid, consisting for example of sustainable communities in remote or developing areas as well as of microgrid operators and DSO/TSO for grid-connected microgrids in developed areas.

The 5G/6G solution, which is also powered through RES in remote areas, provides the backbone both for communications and computing for the information exchange which is required for maintaining such grids. “The ultimate goal is to integrate and intertwine the solutions on flexibility management, grid control, energy trading and distributed wireless communications into an environment that can demonstrate renewable generation penetration approaching 100%,” Pouttu says and adds that first demonstrations should be realised in the summer given that COVID-19 permits.
Obviously, the most straightforward areas where this kind of technologies can be exploited are remote and developing areas where grid availability is low. However, with the increasing usage of household level microgeneration, even the “modern” grids of developed areas need to be adjusted to the increasing share of volatile RES generation. This, however, will happen gradually and may take several tens of years.

“The solution itself can be built in a hierarchical manner from household level to microgrid, to distribution grid, and all the way to transmission grid making the solution scalable and more importantly resilient,” Pouttu says. “On the other hand, large investments to our current mostly centralized power grid makes the penetration of these technologies rather slow, but it does offer an avenue to integrate gradually large amount of microgeneration into our future carbon positive power system.”

Read more about 6G research.

Energy production and consumption play a major role in climate change. Professor, 6G Flagship Energy Research Director Ari Pouttu tells how smart power system and the development of new wireless communications solutions for grids help in creating more sustainable future.