Image: B. Mahler

Using elec­tric­i­ty more intel­li­gent­ly with the Intel­li­Grid plug

Project at Kiel Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences (UAS) aims to make elec­tric­i­ty use more effi­cient. The Intel­li­Grid plug allows some house­hold appli­ances to be used specif­i­cal­ly when cheap elec­tric­i­ty is avail­able. Cur­rent­ly, the project team is look­ing for test households.

Stor­ing elec­tric­i­ty is dif­fi­cult. Capac­i­tors are often very expen­sive and lim­it­ed in capac­i­ty; accu­mu­la­tors have sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy loss­es and lim­it­ed life. There­fore, the fol­low­ing usu­al­ly applies: The pow­er gen­er­a­tion in an elec­tric­i­ty net­work must fol­low the cur­rent con­sump­tion. This is a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem for renew­able ener­gy from wind and solar. After all, the wind does not always blow with the same strength and the sun does not shine with the same inten­si­ty on all days.

Researchers at Kiel Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences (UAS) have there­fore set them­selves the goal of mak­ing avail­able ener­gy more effi­cient. Prof. Dr. Ralf Patz, a lec­tur­er at the Insti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­o­gy and Embed­ded Sys­tems in the Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence and Elec­tri­cal Engi­neer­ing, and his team have devel­oped a plug that is designed to use the elec­tri­cal ener­gy avail­able in the grid when a lot is avail­able. The aim of the project is to eval­u­ate whether it is pos­si­ble to use appli­ances in pri­vate house­holds, main­ly appli­ances such as dish­wash­ers, wash­ing machines and tum­ble dry­ers, as switch­able loads to help bal­ance sup­ply and demand in the pow­er grid.

“Con­sump­tion and gen­er­a­tion of elec­tri­cal ener­gy are sub­ject to strong fluc­tu­a­tions. In pri­vate house­holds, con­sump­tion is high­est in the morn­ing and evening. How­ev­er, elec­tric­i­ty from renew­able ener­gies is not gen­er­at­ed con­stant­ly — as it is by coal, gas or nuclear pow­er — but is depen­dent on the weath­er. This is where Intel­li­Grid comes in,” explains Patz. The plug is designed to shift elec­tric­i­ty con­sump­tion to times when elec­tric­i­ty is cheap­est. In the first tri­al phase, the project will focus on the con­sumers wash­ing machine, dry­er and dish­wash­er. They are used almost every day and their use can be eas­i­ly postponed.

Here’s how it works: House­holds plug the Intel­li­Grid con­nec­tor between the pow­er out­let and appli­ances. The plug com­mu­ni­cates with the Intel­li­Grid serv­er via the home WLAN. Users use a smart­phone appli­ca­tion to tell the plug when, for exam­ple, the wash­ing machine should be ready. Intel­li­Grid’s serv­er then looks for the best time peri­od to run the wash­ing machine, mak­ing the best use of avail­able power.

Cur­rent­ly, the Intel­li­Grid team is look­ing for inter­est­ed house­holds who would like to test the sys­tem for three months and then fill out a questionnaire.