The intelligent and innovative Italian Smart Grid is made-in-Switzerland

From Manno's Hive Power start-up, a new software to manage energy networks with electric vehicles acting as backup sources

Smart Grid: energy aggregation
The concept of "energy aggregation" between different sources (static batteries, electric vehicles, heat pumps) is the basis of the solution offered by Hive Power

Le Smart Grid (smart grids) are not a new concept and are becoming increasingly important due to the increase in renewable sources in electricity production.

The problem with renewable sources, however, is discontinuity (night or bad weather for photovoltaic, drops in wind for wind) for which they require "backup sources", capable of intervening at the moment of lowest production and greatest demand . Until now, backup sources have been either fossil, resulting in further greenhouse gas emissions, or nuclear.

hive power, founded by Italians Gianluca Corbellini e Davide Rivola, is a "Swiss Made Software" certified company that does not physically build the networks, but has developed software to manage them starting from a simple but ingenious concept: also using the batteries of electric vehicles as a backup source.

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Smart Grid: intelligent networks
Smart grids are intelligent networks: thanks to a new digital approach they are more stable and effective in managing the continuous changes caused by the increase in renewable sources

A look at complexity to find solutions

Electricity networks are complex and, from a certain point of view, fragile systems. They could remember living beings, or rather the complicated internal structures of living beings: for example, the circulatory system, or the nervous system. It is necessary to maintain a balance between demand and production of energy, otherwise there is a risk of "collapse" of a large part of the network itself: examples of even serious and prolonged blackouts in the past have amply demonstrated this.

The Smart Grid is a network made "intelligent" thanks to the use of ad hoc software, which makes it able to "react" automatically to changes, rebalancing itself in real time. Furthermore, they allow the so-called local "energy communities" to be created and managed more easily, capable of making the production of self-generated energy less expensive and avoiding any overloads.

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Lugaggia Innovation Community
One of the community energy projects Hive Power is collaborating on, in the Swiss village of Lugaggia

The problem of forecasts applied to Smart Grids

As much as Smart Grids can be perfected, as much as forecasts can be made more precise over time, the state of the grid in real time almost never corresponds to what was planned. The managers of the national networks, having to continuously balance the input and demand of energy depending on the moment, send signals to the so-called "aggregators", which consequently modify their power profile on the network, producing or consuming more energy at depending on the need.

The problem will become increasingly complicated both at the national network level and at the local network level, which will be increasingly "stressed" by the presence of renewable sources, discontinuous and unpredictable by nature, and the ever-increasing number of electric cars. Hive Power fits precisely into this "wedge" between large energy companies and car manufacturers, two worlds that have so far been totally separate, but which are increasingly intertwining, to create a totally new market while solving optimization problems at the same time.

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Electric vehicle batteries as balancing sources

The service proposed by Hive Power exploits the flexibility of electric vehicle batteries, i.e. the possibility of moving charging times forward or backward by a few minutes. By aggregating thousands of these batteries (on average private vehicles remain stationary 95 percent of the time) electricity grids can be balanced.

For example, when there is a higher demand, the vehicles connected to the system are used to stabilize the network by extending the charging time by a few minutes or even drawing some energy from the battery, the so-called "bidirectional charging".

Vehicle owners are remunerated with discounts on the cost of energy on their bills, also because the software is able to exploit the extreme hourly volatility of energy prices to the advantage of the user, who thus becomes a real "trader". ” energetic.

Dozens of experiments have already been carried out around the world which have demonstrated the efficiency of the system, but Hive Power is one of the first companies to transform it into a commercial service, developing the management software. This is also thanks to the fact that Swiss laws are more advanced than the majority of European countries in allowing this type of service.

The software is able to make predictions on charging availability thanks to dedicated artificial intelligence algorithms that calculate how many cars are or will be connected to the charging stations and for how long. Depending on the power requests from the network, therefore, it can stop or accelerate charging from the columns in a few seconds to optimize everything by balancing input and withdrawal.

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Flexo, the software produced by Hive Power
Flexo is the software produced by Hive Power, made up of multiple modules specialized in different functions

A “convenient and irrelevant” system for the user experience

And what do owners of electric cars notice?

Given that the system only works if it involves several thousand vehicles, little or nothing changes in the user experience.

Electric car batteries, unlike other more classic systems, are particularly interesting for this new market as they are very quick to respond to requests for changes in the power profile, some even in less than a second.

Furthermore, they already "exist", therefore they do not require new installations like the "permanent" batteries of storage systems. They are acquired by users for mobility, but then remain still and unused most of the time. Hive Power's solution allows you to transform these long breaks into opportunities for saving or earning, without affecting the user experience too much.

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Flexible Smart Grid
An artistic representation of an intelligent, aggregated and flexible network

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As also happens in living systems, the more widespread and decentralized a complex system is, the more robust it becomes: the Internet is the best example of this.

The increase in electric cars will lead to a consequent increase in charging points and available batteries. Furthermore, with the advent of electric heavy transport, which will occur sooner than expected, also thanks to Tesla's research, it will be at the same time more productive (very large batteries) and regular than private transport.

The presentation of the "Hive Power" project in Ticino in one minute

Smart Grid: the Hive Power logo
The logo of Hive Power, a Swiss start-up founded by Italians Gianluca Corbellini and Davide Rivola