Today’s electricity grid stems from Nikola Tesla’s work in the late 19th century. Tesla was the man that author Robert Lomas graciously calls “The Man Who Invented the 20th century” in his famous biography of the scientist, inventor and genius. Tesla’s work on alternating current and 3-phase electric transmission paved the way for the electricity system that we know today. A basic assumption underpinning the original concept was that a few, large power plants typically equipped with Tesla’s own turbines would be created. The electricity would then be transmitted to buildings and households where people could be relieved of lighting based on gas and kerosene. Indeed new instruments and appliances would be possible. New electric motors could now do work that previously required old fashioned steam power
The fact that people one day would become producers of energy might have been part of Tesla’s dreams, but then there were different times and bringing electric power to the people was a revolution great enough. The feat has proven its value in more than 100 years with little demand for change. However, that is about to happen.. A radical increase in consumption over the past decades, a pronounced climate challenge that requires more focus on non-fossil energy sources and the emergence of new technologies demand a change to the old. If Tesla had seen what computers and modern technology could do his mind would have raced and his creativity aroused. We might just speculate what he could have done with modern ICT. But he would have been the first to understand the importance of locally produced energy. We like to believe that he would have adored the concept of the smart electricity grid. Even more he would have understood the importance of a cell structure to support the power grid allowing electricity to flow to where it is needed, from where it can be produced, just in time, just enough and to the least possible cost to the people and their environment. This is what we have set forth to do. We are going to invent the Smart Rural Grid.
Cherish the video that introduces the basic principles of the concept to be explored and the rationale behind. Accompanied by beautiful images from Vallfogona del Ripollès in Catalonia, Spain – the location of our full scale-demonstration, the video will explain the fundamentals of the project and the principal research goals in popular terms. The video will help to understand how the Smart Rural Grid holds the power to transform the way electricity supply will be managed in the future. Inevitably it will trigger many different thoughts about the future impacts and opportunities of the research results. They are practically boundless. The Smart Rural Grid will be no less than a landmark in the history of electricity supply and true to the innovative spirit that also inspired Nikola Tesla.
The Smart Rural Grid project is aimed at developing an innovative smart grid approach which targets the very end part of the electric system. The particular conditions of the distribution networks demand new thinking. Rural distribution networks are vulnerable, many are overloaded and the emergence of small power plants hooked on to the net in the form solar panels (PV), small wind generators or powerful bio-fueled micro-CHPs are emerging. The need for substantial improvements is now imminent. Increased efficiency, quality and network resilience must be assured. The flow of locally produced electric energy must be controlled for optimal benefit. The particular conditions that many rural electricity distribution networks require a new type of thinking as new options and new technologies emerge. The Smart_Rural_Grid will explore and in turn show how to exploit the convergence between electricity and telecom networks. The work undertaken aims to show how utilities (DSOs) can operate more efficiently and to interconnect “energy prosumers” to enable a multi-directional flow of energy. Energy consumers are consumers who also produce energy, and bring their surplus to the energy market. Prosumers in countries all over the world are emerging as technologies for small-scale, renewable production becomes cheaper and more powerful. Motivated by government initiatives that seek to resolve the climate challenge a new and important market force is incipient.
The Smart Rural Grid will embrace the prosumer. It will guarantee the quality of electricity supply to all that are dependent on a sustainable and scalable supply. It will bring its innovative concept of “manageable electricity islands” to the distribution grid to create a resilient and efficient distribution grid even in the most remote parts of the rural network. From this we expect to see the rise of new business and social development somewhat in ways that Tesla’s ideas shaped the past century. Built on top of this concept we anticipate the development of new business models that can support the rural operations of DSOs in the future and assure future economic and industrial sustainability beyond the metropolitan areas. An inherent effect of the research done in the Smart_Rural_Grid are the possible spin-offs in the form of new industrial products (systems and devices) and novel services for electricity distribution, prosumer support and better network management and control. We anticipate that project results and the knowledge generated will have a significant and positive impact on future operational costs and investments in rural electricity distribution. Limited needs for increased capacity during peak hours, improved capitalization on existing infrastructure, reduction of transmission losses, improved balance between electricity generated and electricity consumed are imminent. Improved support for local industries and community services will be a natural consequence along with entirely new ancillary services that are meant to support both the community and the individual.