Next Kraftwerke (German for Next Power Plants) operates one of the largest virtual power plants in Europe. They network electricity producers such as biogas, wind and solar systems, commercial and industrial electricity consumers and electricity storage via thier central platform. Integration creates a strong network - with advantages for all participants and our entire energy system.
Electricity is not always worth the same amount. The price of electricity on the exchanges can change up to 96 times a day. Bundled via the Next Kraftwerke virtual power plant, our customers can participate in these electricity markets and use the price differences for themselves: They produce or consume electricity exactly when it is worthwhile for them. You receive the information you need for this fully automatically via our control system.
An energy supply that relies on weather-dependent energy sources such as solar and wind power must be able to cushion fluctuations reliably. This is exactly what the Next Kraftwerke virtual power plant does: A cloud moves over the solar park? We are ramping up electricity production from our bioenergy plants. Is there more wind than expected? Flexible electricity consumers increase their consumption and benefit from cheap wind energy.
Volatile electricity generators include photovoltaic and wind turbines. Their electricity production is dependent on the wind and sun and therefore cannot adjust their output completely as required. However, you can of course shut down if the prices on the electricity exchange are extremely negative.
How much electricity solar and wind power plants will feed in cannot be planned in the long term - but the feed-in forecasts are more and more accurate the closer the delivery time gets. Precisely due to the direct marketing of solar and wind power on the electricity exchange, the quality of the forecast has increased enormously in recent years.
Flexible power generators include biogas plants, hydropower plants, combined heat and power plants (CHP) or combined heat and power plants (CHP) and other flexible power plants. They all have in common that they can adjust their performance as required and are not dependent on external factors such as wind or sun.
Thanks to their flexible controllability, they can provide balancing energy, that is, at the behest of the transmission system operator (TSO), throttling or ramping up their power to serve the grid. However, you can also drive electricity price-oriented, i.e. produce a lot of electricity when the prices are high and generate little or no electricity at low prices. With our control system, we can calculate the optimal timetable for each system and control the individual systems accordingly, so that our system operators can get the best out of their system.
In the past, electricity consumers were passive participants in the electricity market. As a rule, they had long-term contracts with electricity suppliers and used just as much electricity as they needed to run their industrial plants, their businesses or their households as usual. Therefore, electricity demand has been inelastic in the past.
This picture has changed today. The demand side is increasingly adapting to the supply, as electricity consumers consume more or less electricity in such times than they originally planned. This flexible adjustment of demand is called "load management" or "demand side management" (DSM).
As part of load management, flexible electricity consumers such as cold stores, pumps or power-to-heat systems can provide balancing energy, i.e. increase or reduce their electricity consumption at the behest of the transmission system operator if there is too much or too little electricity in the network. But you can also use a connection to the electricity exchange and our variable electricity tariff 'Best of 96' to base your electricity consumption entirely on the electricity price and react flexibly to exchange signals: If the price is very low, you will use more electricity; if it is very high, they consume less electricity. In this way, electricity consumers can both stabilize the electricity grid and reduce their electricity costs.
Emergency power generators (also: network replacement systems) supply a property with electricity if the public power grid fails. They are often connected to hospitals, industrial plants or administration buildings, but are usually used very rarely because the German power grid is very reliable. There are a total of around 9,000 emergency power generators in Germany.
As a rule, emergency power generators must be able to provide their full performance from a standing start. This makes them ideal for the provision of positive balancing energy: If there is too little electricity in the grid to meet demand, emergency generators can be started and thus stabilize the grid frequency. The actual effect in this case is as follows: The emergency generator starts and supplies the connected hospital with electricity. The hospital then no longer has to draw electricity from the network; the demand for electricity on the grid is therefore falling - and is adapting to the low supply of electricity. From this point of view, the use of emergency generators for balancing energy is a case of Demand Side Management (DSM), i.e. the flexible adaptation of the demand side to the electricity supply.
The use of emergency power generators (often operated with diesel) for grid frequency stabilization is also justifiable from a sustainability perspective. Because calls for balancing energy can be declared as maintenance runs. The effect: the emergency power generator does not necessarily increase its own annual operating time by participating in the balancing energy market. Furthermore, the networking of small-scale "Eh-da capacities" means that the construction and operation of existing conventional power plants can be stopped more quickly.
Power-to-heat systems (PtH) - basically large electric heaters - work from the network point of view in exactly the opposite way to emergency power generators: If necessary, they can draw excess electricity from the network and convert it into heat.
Since electricity is an expensive source of energy for generating heat, PtH plants are often built in the vicinity of industrial plants in order to cover the heating requirements of industrial plants via the PtH plant with a high electricity supply in the network and correspondingly low (possibly negative) prices and thus save costs for oil or gas. PtH systems can therefore be used ideally based on electricity prices if they have access to the exchange. In addition, they can offer negative balancing energy, i.e. if there is an excess of electricity in the network, at the behest of the transmission system operator, take electricity and generate heat from it.
An alternative concept for using PtH plants is to place the plant between an existing power generator (such as a CHP plant) and the entry point into the public grid. In this case, no mains electricity is used for heat generation, but excess electricity from the generator unit.
The Next Box is our self-developed control unit that connects the individual systems with our control system. It fulfills all technological and security requirements of the transmission system operators in order to be able to participate in the balancing energy markets (transmission code).
The Next Box is the link in the Next Pool. It bundles the individual systems in the Next Pool and ensures that they are all centrally controllable like a single power plant. In this way, it also opens up the option of using generation plants and electricity consumers in line with the price of electricity and thus optimizing profits.
Technical properties of Next Box:
2. Data communication runs over a GPRS connection that is established with a SIM card.
A power generation system or a power consumer is controlled remotely via a protocol interface. The protocol interface collects system information, for example on system availability or its current performance, and transmits it to our control system via the Internet. In addition, our control system can access the power generators and consumers via the protocol interface and raise or lower them as required.
Next Kraftwerke have been working successfully with many major manufacturers for a long time, which means that we integrate electricity consumers and generators into our Next Pool via their protocol interfaces. New interface partners are regularly added, so just contact us if you want to use a different interface.
The control system is the technological heart of the Next Pool and is completely administered by our own system engineers. This is where all the information that the next boxes or protocol interfaces of all units and the transmission system operators transmit to us via machine-to-machine communication (M2M) flows together. Once in the control system, the data in our servers is authenticated by a router cluster with a firewall, decrypted and stored in the right place.
Based on the data, we know how much power is available in our pool and how much control energy we can offer. During a control energy call, our algorithms determine every second which system should increase or decrease its output by which value. These optimization setpoints are then immediately sent via the communication interface to the individual systems, which adapt their performance accordingly.
But the control system does not only play a central role for control energy. The control system also switches flexible power generators such as CHPs or electricity consumers such as water pumps up and down based on electricity price signals in day-ahead or intraday trading. Here, too, our optimization algorithms continuously calculate the optimal timetables of the flexible electricity producers and consumers in the Next Pool. The electricity generators therefore only ever produce as much electricity as is currently required in the grid. With this mechanism, flexible electricity consumers drive electricity-market-oriented, because they consume their electricity when it is particularly cheap and the overall demand is low. In this way, our control system can help stabilize the power grid before the use of balancing energy is even necessary.
There are various wholesale locations where we sell the electricity from the networked systems or buy the electricity for the connected electricity consumers. For example the main marketplaces in Europe are:
The markets differ in particular in terms of terms and product terms. Long-term electricity supply contracts are concluded on the futures market, which can extend up to several years into the future. On the day-ahead markets, electricity is traded for the following day, and on the intraday market, trading continues up to 30 minutes before delivery during the current day.
Control energy is used to stabilize the power grid and is a kind of power reserve that the transmission system operators (TSOs) activate when the grid frequency rises significantly below 50 Hertz or below. Such frequency fluctuations occur when the supply and demand for electricity do not coincide. A controllable output of at least five MW is necessary for the provision of control energy. Together in the virtual power plant, this entry size is much easier to take than alone. After successful approval on the balancing energy market, the participants receive a performance price (for the provision of flexible reserves) and a work price (when the reserves are activated).