Reactive Technologies have successfully transmitted data across the UK electricity grid, the first time this has been done on a national electricity grid.
Euractiv reports that it could be a significant step towards the creation of virtual power stations, where many thousands of homes and businesses combine to manage electricity use more smartly, but could also negatively impact the development of power plants.
The development is in line with a growing trend towards replacing centralised fossil-fuel power stations with decentralised renewable energy and smart grids.
To test the new technology, RT set up a handful of devices – truck-sized resistors – across the UK to generate the messages and then installed 20 listening receivers in other places, connected only via the National Grid. Messages were sent out were successfully received.
Using innovation developed by former Nokia engineers in Finland, the RT system inserts the data as small changes in the 50Hz signal itself, which jumps an air gap, which previously prevented the transmission taking place.
If the technology fulfils its potential it means lower energy bills for consumers who allow small variations in the energy consumption of their appliances, such as water heaters or freezers.
The flexibility provided by thousands of appliances combined could reduce peaks in energy use and remove the need for some large new gas or nuclear power stations or diesel generator farms that are started up in times of short supply. It also allows for the optimum use of intermittent renewable energy.
The system uses new technology to send messages through national electricity cables to any appliances with a smart plug connected to the mains, asking it to adjust its energy use.
In the commercial sector, where the technology will be first rolled out, it could mean water company pumps are used at specific times or an office air-conditioning system is adjusted.
The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission recently estimated that UK consumers could save £8bn a year by 2030 by adopting smart power technology, while also helping the nation meet its climate change targets.
“The old mindset would be, we need to build more power stations,” said Jens Madrian, CFO at RT. “We disagree with that. There are other ways of managing electricity, one of which is carrying knowledge from the telecommunications and software engineering side into the energy sector.”
An advantage of the system over the internet and mobile phone networks is that the grid already reaches all electrical devices, even those in remote locations.
READ: Q&A with Jens Madrian of Reactive Technologies
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