IBM, working with Swiss companies, says it has started a renewable energy smart-grid pilot project in Switzerland.
The project, called FlexLast, will use refrigerated warehouses as a buffer to help balance fluctuations of the availability of sun and wind energy on the energy grid. It’s a collaboration between IMB and BKW FMB Energy, which provides electricity to the Canton of Bern, Switzerland; Migros, Switzerland’s largest retailer and supermarket chain; and Swissgrid, the national grid operator.
Using logistics and warehouse sensor data on temperatures and consumption from Migros and BKW, real-time energy data from BKW and Swissgrid and software and algorithms developed by IBM scientists, the FlexLast pilot will optimize the balance between the production and consumption of energy in Migros’ three cold storage warehouses.
Like a 200,000-m2-sized refrigerator, the three cold storage keeps perishable goods at −18 degrees Fahrenheit around the clock.
Maintaining this temperature for vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products and baked goods requires 500,000 kWh per month, the company says. This becomes more difficult when the cargo doors are opened and cold air escapes daily as the trucks distribute thousands of palettes filled with goods to the chain’s 990 stores.
Under the pilot, when the sun shines and the wind blows, the air conditioning units in the warehouse will run full blast. When renewable energy is not available, they will run at a lower level or shut down completely.
The companies did not say how much energy they expect FlexLast to save.
The project also has the potential to contribute to Switzerland’s energy policy goal of increasing the proportion of electricity produced from renewable energy by 5,400 GWh — 10 percent of the country’s current electricity consumption — by 2030.
According to the companies, about 55.6 percent of Switzerland’s overall electricity production comes from renewable sources, with hydropower by far the biggest contributor at more than 96 percent.
IBM says it has demonstrated that electric vehicles, appliances and homes can be used to buffer the irregular production of electricity from future renewable sources to produce greater grid stability. With FlexLast, it says it plans to add cold storage warehouses to the list.
The pilot will finish at the end of 2013.
Earlier this month, IBM announced it had partnered with ESB Networks to deploy a “smarter” EV charging system to manage about 1,000 public charging points across Ireland, Environmental Leader reports.
The project will also provide utilities with access to energy-usage data that IBM says can help improve smart grid operations and reduce power strain during peak charging times.