Flexcore-edge computing

Innovation: edge computing for data-driven grid management

Improved monitoring makes it possible to act on the basis of high-quality information

Data-driven grid management gives grid operators greater insight into their electricity grid load. This is much-needed information if the challenges of the energy transition and electrification are to be met. Medium-voltage transformers are therefore being fitted with a range of measuring systems. But these in turn are creating new challenges in the area of service and maintenance and supplier independence. Grid operator Enexis and ‘Power Quality’ specialist HyTEPS are working together with Technolution to create a new generic platform in the Flexcore innovation project. Technolution Spark is meeting this need by further developing an open edge computing platform.

Data-driven grid management

Medium- and low-voltage networks in the Netherlands are reaching the upper limits of what they can handle. Load fluctuations are on the upturn as a result of the growth of sustainable energy and increasing demand for power due to electrification. The risk of grid overload, peak loads and many related problems is growing. Adding further capacity to the grid network is a costly and complex operation that requires the involvement of technical staff with limited time. But there is an alternative: improved monitoring makes it possible to act on the basis of high-quality information. The new approach, therefore, is data-driven grid management.

Grid operators are equipping medium-voltage transformers with sensors, actuators and communication systems for a whole range of purposes, such as predictive maintenance, operation of street lighting, grid quality monitoring, congestion management, fault localization, fraud detection and automated fault recovery. But the abundance of systems installed in medium-voltage transformers – often supplied by different parties – still requires a lot of service and maintenance. In addition, these systems are causing undesired supplier dependency.

Concept can be compared to a smartphone

The Flexcore pilot that Enexis, HyTEPS and Technolution Spark are working on takes a new approach. The concept can be compared to a smartphone. Just like smartphones provide a hardware and software platform for a range of apps, Flexcore offers a local platform to which sensors can be connected and on which the various applications can be easily implemented through a common system architecture.

The system then handles data acquisition and processing as well as all communication with the grid operator’s back office. As the various use cases can use a common local platform and local sensors, fewer sensors are needed in transformer substations. The use cases are essentially different ways in which the data generated by the sensors can be analyzed and processed.

Other purposes

Flexcore is an edge computer that allows collective use of the available hardware and sensors for a range of purposes. On-the-spot data processing helps limit the required bandwidth and makes it possible to execute local use cases immediately (local control and intervention). At the same time, the back office has access to a wealth of information that offers effective immediate support for medium-voltage grid management. In the future, it will also be possible to use Flexcore technology for other purposes. For instance, as a central hub for power management in individual homes, or to operate large-scale distributed monitoring networks.

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