If you are one of the growing number of people with solar panels on the roof, it’s cheaper for you to generate electricity than it is for a large power plant.
That is one reason energy production is shifting from the top-down model (a central power grid producing and selling energy to you) to a bottom-up model where you and your local “energy community” produce power that you send to, and buy from, a local grid.
The BIRD Energy program of the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation recently awarded a grant to Fsight Energy of Hod Hasharon (Israel) and Solaria of California to develop a solution that optimizes and manages every point along the bottom-up process of energy storage, consumption and trading via the local grid.
“It’s very logical to manage electricity consumption so that you sell when it’s expensive and buy when it’s cheap,” says Fsight Chairman Christian Kern, who is the former chancellor of Austria.
It may be logical yet it’s difficult to achieve because energy prices fluctuate every 15 minutes. Expected to be completed by early 2021, the Solaria-Fsight product will make real-time pricing calculations using data-based weekly forecasting models and AI-based software that learns the energy behavior of each home or business on the local grid.
The system will integrate Fsight’s Energy AI management software into Solaria’s solar-energy storage battery to balance energy flow throughout the day automatically, in the most cost-effective manner.
“Every end consumer who has a photovoltaic system will install a battery and become a flexible prosumer — a consumer that produces,” Fsight VP Strategy and Marketing Nir Badt tells ISRAEL21c.
“The flexible prosumer decides when to sell energy to the grid and when to buy energy from the grid. The current electricity distribution company is turned into a facilitator of local energy trading.”
Badt illustrates the point with an example: “If I connect my electric vehicle late in the evening, when energy prices are high, but I don’t need it till 8am, our [system] knows that it makes sense to delay the charge. Maybe it will charge the battery at 5am when electricity is cheap, before prices and consumption jump.”
That decision is made possible through the artificial intelligence of Fsight’s Energy AI.
A two-year collaboration started this year with the solar- and wind-generated electricity distribution company on Kibbutz Ma’aleh Gilboa. “We have several other pilots in different stages in Israel, Austria, Germany, Hungary and Turkey,” Badt says.
Calculating energy prices locally and dynamically
Fsight was founded in 2015 by energy industry heavyweights including the former head of energy for Siemens’ central and eastern Europe division, and the former president and CEO of the Israel Electric Company. It has 18 employees and funding from the Israel Innovation Authority, angel investors and small venture-capital firms.
Badt says the Israeli startup isn’t the only one in the world offering systems for managing local energy grids.
“Our system is unique in the way that it offers a completely bottom-up and autonomous approach for buying and selling energy by calculating prices at the level of each neighborhood,” he explains.
Competitors have not done this yet, he adds, because it is so complex. “It brings a lot of complexity but also a lot of value,” he says.
Ultimately, says Badt, the Fsight system is all about enabling electric companies to harness the flexibility of end prosumers to make the grid more stable, renewable and affordable.
“We envision all grids in the future will be built from locally balanced energy communities, whether it’s one building, a district or a village,” he says.
“In the future, a passive connection to the grid won’t be good enough for solar-electric systems,” said Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma. “Active coordination with other systems and connections to trading markets will become vital capabilities. I’m tremendously excited to be working with Fsight to usher in a new era of advanced capabilities for smaller-than-utility-scale solar generation systems.”
Limor Nakar-Vincent, deputy executive director of business development at BIRD Energy, said BIRD funding for the project between Fsight and Solaria “will accelerate the development and commercialization of this joint project which can change the way companies and communities manage their energy consumption and as well as increase the use of renewable energy.”
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