UK start-up Reactive Technologies has demonstrated what it says is the world-first nationwide transmission of data entirely via the electricity grid. This new communications channel will allow connected devices to share information and enable remote control and measurement of assets across electricity networks.
Current means of communicating with assets require an internet or mobile communication connection, in addition to an individual meter, which can make schemes to monitor demand down to the level of individual households impracticable. Reactive says its grid data management system will provides an alternative, cost-effective solution, using the frequency of the electricity network to carry data.
In addition, electricity network operators will get greater insight into the behaviour of those customers who have the ability to generate, consume and store their own electricity, providing a clearer picture of how electricity is generated and consumed at the distribution network level.
The information is essential for operators to balance supply and demand across networks which are becoming increasingly complex with intermittent sources such as wind and solar generators.
Cordi O’Hara of the National Grid said the project has demonstrated the successful transmission of data through the electricity grid over long distances, critically passing through transformers and with a broad coverage. “It represents another step forward in the development of the smart grid technologies that are going to play an increasingly important role in the energy systems of the future.”
Jens Madrian, of Reactive said grid data management can dramatically reduce the cost of creating large-scale smart grid networks that link in domestic devices such as fridges, air conditioning systems and hot water tanks. “Creating flexible demand is the lowest cost and carbon free way of balancing the electricity system, which is otherwise managed by turning up or down thermal power plant like diesel generators or gas fired power stations.”
How grid data management works
Connected devices send and receive data across the electricity network through minute and subtle changes made to the grid frequency by modulating the power consumption of transmitting devices. These ‘on’ and ‘off’ or frequency changes create a unique code.
Receivers, embedded in the plugs of devices, such as freezers, hot water tanks and air conditioning equipment, are programmed to detect these frequency changes. Receiving devices then identify and decode the messages, which automatically tell the device to carry out a particular instruction, for example, to turn down or turn off according to a schedule, or based on grid frequency changes.