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RealValue 2020: Demand Side Management with Smart Heaters

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

RealValue is a €15.5 million energy management project being funded by Horizon 2020, the largest research & innovation program in Europe, where a total of €12 million in funds are provided by the European Community. The goal of the project is to demonstrate how automated residential heaters with thermal storage capacity can save money for all stakeholders in the electric power supply chain, from power plant operators to residential customers.

SSE Airtricity required two software solutions to be implemented for the Real Value project, and they contacted Logic Energy to develop and provide them:

A mobile application for participating homeowners to control and monitor residential heaters remotely.

A backend solution capable of logging and aggregating the data of all individual smart heaters in the project, as well as bridging data communications between Intel and SSE, in order to deploy the control system that makes energy savings possible.

Energy Management: Savings Across the Entire Electric Power Value Chain

Energy efficiency and sustainability are more than just about reducing consumption and using renewable sources; the way in which energy is used also has a considerable financial impact for electric utility companies and consumers alike. One of the main challenges of power grid operation is being able to meet a constantly shifting demand, since it is necessary to have generation and transmission capacity on standby. With the rise of variable-output renewable energy technologies such as photovoltaic panels and wind turbines, and the imminent arrival of electric vehicles, the complexity of balancing power supply and demand has further increased, since there is now variability in both sides. Of course, this creates an area of opportunity for real-time monitoring, data management and automation technologies.

An energy management solution capable of reducing peak demand and optimizing power grid capacity would help achieve lower operating costs and energy prices. Batteries are often proposed for demand side management, but tend to be limited by space requirements and cost. For this reason, Glen Dimplex is testing the alternative of storing off-peak and low-cost energy as heat rather than electricity: the RealValue project will explore the possibilities of using Quantum electric heaters with heat storage capabilities as an energy buffer.

How Smart Heaters Optimize Power Grid Demand

In order to test the concept of demand side management with smart heaters, Glen Dimplex has partnered with Intel, a multinational technology giant, and SSE Airtricity, an electric utility company with a strong focus on wind power. Quantum smart heaters are being installed in 1250 homes across Ireland, Germany and Latvia, and the system operates as follows:

  • Quantum smart heaters can store heat, which means they don’t have to draw power from the grid every time they’re activated. If heating is required during high demand hours, it can be drawn from the thermal storage rather than from the grid. The opposite also applies: the smart heater can store energy during low demand hours even if heating is not required at that specific moment.

  • Homeowners participating in the RealValue project can configure their heaters normally, thanks to a monitoring system and mobile application by Logic Energy, which allows remote access in real time and comfort settings programming. This application ensures heaters operate as specified by homeowners, regardless of how their thermal storage is being used in the background.

  • All individual data from smart heaters is logged and archived in a cloud platform, which was custom-built by Logic Energy for SSE. This backend software also bridges data communications between Intel and SSE in order to provide both partners with the key information they need to carry out their respective roles in the project.

  • Intel runs a decision-making program that uses both the data gathered by Logic Energy and the billing information from SSE’s platform. The available thermal storage capacity is optimized to make use of spare grid capacity during low-demand hours while reducing peaks in demand. Since the grid is less expensive to operate during low demand hours, both SSE and its customers achieve savings by making use of spare capacity to store heat.

  • SSE has access to a Logic Energy management portal, hosted in the cloud platform, where analytics are displayed for the entire RealValue system. This allows them to enhance their customer support and analyze the efficiency of the project. SSE allows the cloud platform to access its billing system, in order to define the smart heater operating schedule that minimizes the monthly electricity bill for its customers.

In a few words, Quantum heaters consume electricity when it’s cheaper while providing heating when it’s needed, allowing homeowners to achieve savings that range from 27% to 47%. A single heater does not have a significant impact on utility-scale demand, but when the concept is implemented in thousands of households the effect becomes significant, allowing utilities to reduce their operating costs and pass on the benefits to end consumers

A robust and reliable data management solution plays a key role in a project like RealValue, since it allows an automated energy saving process to run in the background without a noticeable effect for homeowners, who can still control their smart heaters normally. With data management, it is possible to provide heating when the customer requires it, while ensuring the actual power consumption occurs when it is cheaper for all stakeholders.

What makes this project particularly promising is the fact that heating represents a considerable portion of energy expenses in northern Europe, and therefore it is a large component of peak demand. Now, that same heating capacity could be optimized through information technologies to provide a solution for variable electric demand, providing savings for electric utility companies and consumers alike.

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