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Microsoft Goes Green With Agder Energi Smart Grid Project

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Its cold in the Nordics, so Microsoft teams up with the locals to help electricity grid cope with demand

Microsoft has flashed its green credentials with the news that it has teamed up with Agder Energi and Powel AS for a pilot energy project.

The partnership between the three will see them develop a ‘smart’ electrical grid to help certain Nordic regions cope with the challenge of peak demand during certain periods.

Smart Grid

The firms noted that whilst the past decade has seen some remarkable advances in energy technologies, unfortunately power grids have remained fairly constant and still require tremendous pre planning and huge investments to keep pace with growing energy demand.

Power grids nowadays also need to be able to integrate distributed energy producing systems from rooftop solar panels, batteries, and smart homes, all of which can help reduce capital investment and ease the power burden during peak times.

To this end Microsoft will offer its Azure intelligent cloud, PowerBI and Azure IoT Hub, and combine it with the expertise from energy services specialist Powel. The tools from these two will be used by the Norwegian power utility Agder Energi to improve the dispatch of new energy resources, including device controls and predictive forecasting for situational awareness.

Power electricity on switch © Olivier Le Moal Shutterstock“At Agder Energi we want to use new technology to make the power grid more efficient, more predictable and more flexible,” said Agder Energi’s CEO Tom Nysted. “We will go from being energy generators to energy partners, with a more active role for our customers. Together with our partners at Microsoft and Powel, we will use innovation to solve the challenges facing the grid.”

The pilot project aims to show how power companies can “implement intelligent cloud-based smart grid solutions to unlock a host of energy and sustainability benefits.”

“We are applying our strong domain expertise and acting as the integration and forecasting partner in this project to seamlessly integrate Agder’s SCADA to the Azure IoT Hub, provide demand forecasts, and production forecasts for wind and solar in the region,” said Powel’s CEO Bård Benum. “We are thrilled to be working closely together with Agder Energi and Microsoft to help enable radical innovation in the utility sector.”

The idea is that the pilot project will be operating from an Agder Energi substation that is currently operating at 120 percent of its capacity a number of times throughout the year. The project hopes to help utilities better predict demand and engage distributed resources such as solar panels, in order to ease the demand on the substation and save money that would otherwise be needed to upgrade it.

The project, if success, eventually wants to be able to perform automatic load balancing of renewable energy and peak load control in near real time.

Green cloud finger © Singkham Shutterstock“Renewable energy resources and advancements in intelligent cloud technology are driving a digital transformation of grid operations to explore new business models,” said Kevin Dallas, Microsoft corporate VP, IoT Business Development. “Enabling solutions like Agder’s will accelerate widespread renewable and distributed power generation. It’s a bright future for the utility industry and for a sustainable world.”

Energy Challenge

The challenge of being able to meet the growing energy demand for today’s connected world is tough order.

Electric car maker Tesla last year launched a battery for homes called Powerwall, which is constructed from the same batteries Tesla produces for its electric vehicles.

Five years ago the White House unveiled a series of initiatives designed to help implement IT into the US national power grid to make it smarter, more efficient and secure.

The United States has for a long while needed a more reliable energy system to manage stresses on the grid, such as outages and peak-time demand (as well as cyber attacks).

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