Gridbeyond is one of a new breed of companies, a grid aggregator offering to save money and energy for companies and communities, by selling the surplus energy they are generating or storing, back on to the grid.
Its all about resilience. In the same way that you would futureproof your apartment if you were going to put it on AirBnb, Gridbeyond futureproofs your energy system, so it is fit for purpose in the wider world of smart energy provision, as well as guaranteeing the energy provision to your own home or office.
Although this does currently require a grid connection, in the future off-grid communities could make use of the same technologies to balance the loads between them and share resources.
Part of the service is the way it stores cheap grid electricity when prices are low and then releases it (possibly the same day) when prices rises, with batteries paid for and housed by their clients.
In old fashioned terms the deal they are offering is arbitrage – taking advantage of market volatility to take a cut.
But its more sophisticated than that.
The Gridbeyond version of the service treats energy as a “Flexible asset” in order to “monetise the flexibility,” CEO Padraig Curran told me. Gridbeyond takes the flexibility clients have (whether in generation, storage or demand), and uses it to obtain the best prices both for buying and selling power on a minute by minute basis with the grid operator and energy market.
“You have huge amounts of flexibility in homes – the trick is to harness it in a cost effective way –we are all becoming more interconnected – this will be the gateway.”
Gridbeyond focuses on industrial processes – water, paper, cement – with larger power generation resource and patchy demand – long intervals of low or no demand, followed by a need for large amounts of power at short notice. Again – the same principles apply in any situation where there is a worthwhile amount of surplus power generated at certain points of the day.
The profits from the Flexibility are used to” fund battery deployments behind the meter,” said Curran
“We are permanently monitoring the system – the generation, storage, and any demand or other constraint on supply” he said.
This where the designers can build in resilience so they are never caught out by peaks in prices – they do this by monitoring and controlling –their software allows them to go into any site – “any asset “ as Padraig Curran calls it – meaning any machine, generator or motor –using electronic sensors which communicate back to the key software.
One day the whole grid will work like this – only it wont be a grid any more – it will be a non-hierarchical set of autonomous systems that communicate via the internet and permanently allow energy trading between any two individuals on the system. You will no longer need to buy your energy from the National Grid at retail prices and sell back to them at wholesale prices. There will only be a tiny gap between buy and sell prices, depending on where you are located and what time of day your demand is (although there will always be a gap between buy and sell prices).
Gridbeyond know everything – right down to when you are charging or discharging your batteries. They use this data to predict your demand and arrange for you to sell the power back at the most advantageous time for you.
At the back end – known as centrepoint platform – is where Gridbeyond predicts FLEXIBLITY and market opportunities, and also orchestrates the automatic management of assets to meet their market obligations..
The company kindly allowed me into its Network Operations center (NOC) near Dublin. This is where they Optimise and Monetise – eg offer a client’s power to a grid operator. They are in touch with all market participants –a handful of major players and dozens of minor ones – including other companies like Gridbeyond, which has a turnover of over $10m with 80 employees.
“We trade the energy markets a day ahead or live,” said Curran.
I watched graphic displays of energy usage in real time at the client companies ,while on other screens were the current level of demand, and the other key figure in all their calculations – the predicted next day demand.
The business is built on Software integration – taking the multiple inputs and outputs and connecting them all up together. “We build in Dot net and use python and machine learning,” said Curran.
Electronically, Gridbeyond presents itself to the world as one giant energy plant – “We are seen as a generator by the market,” said Curran. “We help clients use the energy at certain times and minimise exposure to highest prices.
“We are all going to become a lot more energy independent,” he said.
The main drawback with the Gridbeyond approach is the limitations of today’s batteries. The more storage a client has the better control it has over prices it pats and receives from the market. Gridbeyond helps finance battery purchase but does not offer its own battery and this gives clients a battery maintenance problem that they could well wish to avoid.