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.