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Moving toward self-sufficiency: the future of PV energy production

A self-sufficient approach

Published on 6 October 2016

Self-sufficiency—using PV energy produced locally rather than drawing energy from the grid—appears simple, at least at first glance. However, managing and using PV equipment optimally presents a number of challenges, not all of them technical. The way the grid is set up is, of course, crucial. But so are utility energy purchasing policies. In France, utilities offered attractive energy purchase rates—an incentive that proved effective at encouraging PV producers to sell energy back to the national grid. Over the course of a year, 20 sq. m of PV panels produce just about the amount of energy needed by a single-family home. So self-sufficiency would appear to make sense. However, in reality, it is difficult to align supply and demand in real time due to:

  • Fluctuations in the amount of energy produced over the course of a day and actual consumption needs
  • Fluctuations in production due to weather and seasonal factors


Therefore, designing a truly self-sufficient home is more complicated than it first appears. A self-sufficient system would require energy storage systems and smart energy management systems to constantly monitor and align supply and demand. The potential economic and environmental gains would be substantial: self-sufficiency helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduces energy costs.

Our researchers in fields like electrical engineering, IT, and mathematics are developing energy management and complex systems algorithms for tomorrow’s smart grids. And, as increasing numbers of applications are implemented as connected objects on the Internet of Things, our researchers in telecommunications and digital technologies are also contributing their know-how. Liten enjoys a unique position, with vast experience combining knowledge from various fields and broad, deep know-how cutting across three fields crucial to smart grids: electrical engineering, telecommunications, and digital technology.  

Smart energy management algorithms encompass predictive command features, which use production and consumption forecasts to manage energy and perform real-time control. We have developed several numerical and physical modelling and testing platforms. Our researchers have developed solutions already used by renewable energy producers to right-size their equipment and achieve self-sufficiency. These solutions take into account the characteristics of different grids (either robust and interconnected like the European grid, or so-called “weak” grids where uptime does not exceed 50%). Our software provides performance monitoring, validation of the chosen hypotheses, and/or corrective actions to implement in order to achieve self-sufficiency.

BENEFITS


Software development platforms tested and approved by manufacturers

  • Our integrated approach to energy software development and evaluation is inspired by model-based design. Very early on in the process—during the modelling phase—we create controllers virtually identical to those that will be implemented on the actual infrastructure. Our testing methods include predictive controls to optimize energy according to forecast consumption and production data. Our models can be used to right-size storage and management systems to get as close to self-sufficiency as possible. The models are tested on a power hardware in the loop (PHIL) bench.
  • Growing interest on the part of major industrial systems integrators in the solutions developed at Liten is proof that our approach is relevant and viable on the market.


 PROJECTS


  • Solion, backed by the French Single Interministerial Fund (4th wave of funding), aims to develop a PV storage system for self-sufficient residential properties. The product developed as a result of the project is today commercialized by Bosch.
  • EU projects Ambassador (coordinated by Schneider Electric) and Greendatanet (led by Eaton): these projects address energy management for individual homes, microgrids, and datacenters with the goal of helping achieve self-sufficiency.
  • Icones with Alstom Grid: development of energy management algorithms for stationary storage for electricity grids.
  • Parasol: self-sufficiency and electric mobility (a solar-powered mobility concept at the local scale).


FACTS & FIGURES


  • ​Around ten researchers
  • Technologies protected by APP (Agence de protection des programmes), a French organization to protect the rights to digital intellectual property



FACTS & FIGURES

  • Around ten researchers
  • Technologies protected by APP (Agence de protection des programmes), a French organization to protect the rights to digital intellectual property
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