Building a smart grid ...

Interviews with Peter Bruhns, H.D. Thacker, Murad Can at Solar Power International 13We ended up at the Solar Power International 13 show by a somewhat circuitous route. As regular readers may recall, we’d attended the WindPower show earlier in the year, and I suspect that we got on various lists of “alternative energy media outlets” from our coverage of that. Several weeks ago we got an email from a PR rep for one of the exhibiting companies at the Solar show, asking if we’d like to have an interview set up with one of their execs. I had to admit in my response that their note was the first I’d heard about the Solar show, and asked if they could hook us up with the folks who did press credentialing for it.

This is to preface why we ended up talking to three reps for a German company. This, AEG Power Solutions, is an establishment that has a long history, having been founded in 1887 as a German competitor for the US’s General Electric. Over the years they’ve spread out into a wide array of electrical and related niches, and have recently been doing “smart grid” installations. They have just recently completed a very extensive smart grid project in Yuma, AZ, and this was the story we were hoping to get out of their show reps.

However, as I’ve noted about the show in general, most of the “message” being presented was either very technical on a nuts-and-bolts level, or very “selly” ala “we can save building owners $X”, and we found it very hard to get anybody off those particular tracks and into more “big picture” looks at what was happening in the Solar industry. And, no doubt, that was not helped by having to bridge languages in this case. I do think the PR rep was feeling this disconnect, and trooped us around to three folks to talk to, and between them we at least were able to generally triangulate the smart grid story.

One thing that they did have available on their web site was a graphic that was one of the most evocative that I’ve seen for picturing the “smart grid” concept … which you can see HERE. There’s also a bit of a technical walk-through of the smart grid process there as well:

The combination of know-how in reliable and efficient power solutions for infrastructure and within renewable energy applications all along the photovoltaic value chain and now to energy storage applications, positions AEG Power Solutions uniquely to build innovative power supply and management products, systems components and global smart grid solutions for its customers. New products introduced recently … are eco-friendly and smart-grid ready thanks to their ability to manage diverse energy sources. Focusing on storage and medium-voltage grid intelligence, the company is aiming to play a crucial role in smart grid development by providing key building blocks. The Groups engineers are seeking ways to enable operators of renewable energy plants to provide a fully reliable, high-quality flow of power around the clock. This involves monitoring the energy input and providing sources of stored back-up power wherever it is necessary to eliminate the effects of transient grid disturbances. Research and development teams are using battery storage to devise more efficient grid or hybrid storage solutions. However, some of the most promising developments involve the use of gas extraction and storage via hydrogen electrolysis as an energy storage medium. To store intermittently available energy produced by sun or wind, AEG PS has tailored power supply systems to the specific requirements of the electrolysis process …

Smart grids draw their intelligence from bi-directional interaction between the power-user and the power supplier. Intelligence must be introduced into traditionally passive power substations where high voltages are stepped down to medium voltages as they approach the end user. The introduction of intelligence and interactivity to the medium-voltage section of electricity grids constitutes a natural and very large opportunity for AEG Power Solutions.

Again, I really wish we’d have been able to get an interview that looked at the whole smart grid thing, but we were left with getting bits and pieces from various company representatives …

We first had a chat with Peter Bruhns, AEG, “Director Product Management” in the Solar Business Unit at AEG Power Solutions in Germany:

Then we were handed over to to H.D. Thacker, “Senior Field Applications Engineering Manager” at AEG Power Solutions’ U.S. HQ (in Plano, TX):

And finally we were brought over to chat witt Murad Can, “VP Global Customer Operations”, at the AEG ” integrated monitoring and control systems for photovoltaic power plants” subsidiary, Skytron:

Needless to say, the concept of the “smart grid” is an important development in managing energy, and especially energy (such as Solar) which can be intermittent, and requiring storage and controlled distribution. Hope you can get some insight on this from all the above!

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