Sustainable and flexible 5G/6G solutions for energy grids

With the introduction of latest innovations in mobile technologies, the ICT sector can create wide positive impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions. For each CO2 ton caused by broadband radio networks, ten tons can be reduced elsewhere by e.g. increased remote working, avoidance of traveling and effective use of digitalized services. This makes wireless connectivity a major contributor towards a zero-carbon society. Researchers and  developers in Finland,  and around the globe, are seeking innovative combinations of technical solutions, which build on renewable energy and novel features of mobile networks.

6G Flagship’s “Smart Energy Grids” team seeks to connect the electricity grid with communication networks and automation and  to  define  novel  mechanisms  for  energy  market  systems  and structures. The team is now exploring a 5G/6G solution, which  is  powered  by  Renewable  Energy  Sources  (RES),  and  provides  the  backbone  for  communications  as  well  as  computing for the information exchange required for maintaining such grids. “The ultimate goal is to integrate and intertwine the solutions on flexibility management, grid control, energy trading, network management and distributed wireless communi-cations into an environment that can demonstrate renewable generation  penetration  approaching  100%,”  says  professor  Ari Pouttu who leads the team.

Recently, there has been a rapid growth in RES such as photo-voltaics (PV) and wind generation. Furthermore, storage systems,  electric  vehicles,  micro-generation  and  flexible  loads  at the premises of end users add flexibility to the system. “To address the volatile nature of RES, we aim at developing fully distributed  novel  paradigm  empowering  peer-to-peer  (P2P)  flexibility  approaches  that  are  able  to  optimize  the  usage  of  demand-response (DR) as well as RES,” Pouttu says.

Sustainable  microgrid  model

The researchers are now modeling a virtual power plant where a  large  number  of  small  micro-generation  units  are  aggregated into one larger entity, which can then enter the energy market. The research focus at this stage is on the design and implementation  of  the  sustainable  microgrid  scenario. 

“We  are  investigating  the  most  suitable  wireless  communication  strategies  in  order  to  distribute  information  more  efficiently,”  Pouttu  says.  “The  use  of  key  cloud  functionalities,  such  as  time-based  approach  and  event-based  approach,  edge  computing  and  edge  devices  coupled  with  accurate  energy  weather forecast for 48 hours ahead, can aid the demand response  management,  diagnose  wasted  energy  and  thus  improve  our  sustainable  microgrid  model.  In  addition,  real-time  data  of  the  university’s  800  kW  solar  production  unit  is  connected  to  and  is  available  from  the  5G  live  Test  Network  and  with accurate local weather estimates the day ahead, give us tools for handling the balancing market.”

The  team  also  develops  advanced  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  distribution  system  operator  /  transmission  system  operator  for  grid-connected  microgrids  in  developed areas. 

“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.”

This story was originally published in 6G Waves 2. Read more stories from the magazine.