ImWind to Start Managing BaxEnergy Operations in Germany

In an effort to be closer to customers and provide additional operational services, BaxEnergy has decided to join forces with ImWind Technik GmbH. This partnership complements the BaxEnergy skills in designing cutting-edge software solutions for renewable energy by adding remarkable domain knowledge and power plant operational capabilities.

ImWind has been pioneering wind energy projects in Austria and Germany since 1995 and then expanded to other European countries including Spain, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. At present, ImWind directly operates 350 MW of wind energy in Austria. While the core business remains wind energy, ImWind also operates PV and hydro power plants. A pivotal achievement of ImWind was the construction of the highest wind park of its time, Tauernwindpark, 2000 meters in the Austrian Alps. Built nearly 20 years ago, the park is still amongst the highest 5 in the world thus witnessing the technical mastery of the ImWind team.

We are happy to join BaxEnergy’s team in such a special manner” Richard Distl, ImWind Managing Director, said. “This is definitely a great opportunity and our will is to work hard and impress with high quality projects and services.”

Moving the service center from Germany to Austria is a step on the way to dramatically improve the service and heralds BaxEnergy’s intention of bringing field experts, and not just sales managers, physically closer to the market and power plants. Simply, ImWind is a well-known made by consultants with years of experience in operating renewable power plants, even those built in quite unusual locations such as Tauernwindpark.

The partnership with ImWind eliminates entirely any residual barrier between our team and our customers” Simone Massaro, BaxEnergy CEO, said. “We now have in house the experience deriving from operating and optimizing operations for hundreds of MW of wind farms, including those with the highest level of availability in the entire Austria and some of the most challenging one such as the Tauernwindpark which is one of the highest in the world.”

For German customers, ImWind will close the gap between problems and solutions and will do that using the power of the spoken language and the force of their domain knowledge and technical skills. ImWind will provide first-level support and then scale up to BaxEnergy’s experts in case of tougher issues always shielding customers from any language or technical barriers.

ImWind is an energy consulting company with a number of existing customers and a finite set of needs and resources. “We don’t see any sort of pending conflicts” cut it short Richard Distl and Simone Massaro in unison. “We don’t have competing customers and we’ll put enough resources at work to ensure prompt and effective response to any inquiries and challenges.”

As popular wisdom reminds, sometimes the best and the brightest are closer than one might think. And sometimes it even speaks your same language!

Join us in Milan Friday 14 June, Microsoft House, for a full free day of energy talks. Register now at http://energynet.baxenergy.com.


Offshore Wind domain knowledge and best practices

UK Calling: BaxEnergy to Expand in Northern Europe

In the past couple of years, UK smashed record after record and is now leading the race to clean energy throughout Europe.

UK is not just rolling out an impressive number of renewable energy projects, but also reducing fossil-fueled power plants at an amazing rate. New offshore wind power stations brought more than 2GW of capacity online in the course of 2018, including Walney Extension—the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea, just off the northwest coast of England. The landscape for 2019 is even better. The Beatrice project in Moray Firth is set to bring nearly 600MW of new power online and construction is undergoing for over 700MW of the East Anglia ONE project not to mention the giant 1.2GW Hornsea Project One off the Yorkshire coast. Albeit latter two projects are slated to become fully operational only in 2020, the feeling that UK is quite hot in the renewable energy industry is very strong. Furthermore, Ireland has over 3GW of installed wind capacity and 40% of the entire country’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.

Could a software company that owns an open development platform specifically designed for the renewables industry disregard such a market?

“No, we couldn’t take this longer” Simone Massaro, BaxEnergy CEO, said and then continued. “In a decade, offshore wind could be generating more than a third of the UK’s entire electricity needs and have some 30GW up and running. We matured a significant domain knowledge, and learnt a lot of offshore best practices when we designed and built the monitoring hardware and software infrastructure for the 400MW Global Tech I wind farm in the North Sea. We have a lot to offer in terms of IT solutions for wind monitoring and control to increase effectiveness and safety of operations while reducing production losses and downtime.”

BaxEnergy to Expand in Northern Europe
BaxEnergy Chief Growth Officer Luciano Russo welcomes Barry Gavin, new Business Development Partner in UK and Ireland

Could an industry expert with over 18 years of experience in the energy sector, and founding shareholder of Gaelectric, disregard such a ramping-up IT company willing to expand in UK? Holding senior executive positions, Barry Gavin managed to bring Gaelectric out of Ireland in UK and USA. Quite strategically, Barry Gavin also led to the establishment of the Gaelectric’s energy trading team.
As a result, BaxEnergy appointed Barry Gavin as the Business Development Partner in UK and Ireland with the declared goal of expanding operations in Northern Europe and offering innovative services such as Demand/Response and monitoring of charging stations for electrical vehicles.

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to work with Simone and the team at BaxEnergy.” Gavin commented “Based on my own experience of managing a large portfolio of RE assets, I believe that BaxEnergy has developed a software platform and approach that will add real value to any asset owner. In particular, the platform’s ability to incorporate all classes of generation under one umbrella platform, coupled with its accessibility, scalability and the flexibility to customise and tailor to customer needs, is what sets this solution apart from competitors.”

To sign off the agreement, Massaro concluded “Barry will bring value to our business presenting our solutions to a wide range of new customers in a strongly growing market and, moving forward, in developing and transforming new ideas into concrete innovation.”

About BaxEnergy
BaxEnergy develops turnkey solutions for monitoring the whole process of power production from renewable sources and across multiple technologies and manufacturers. The company has reached a monitoring portfolio of 85+ GW of renewable energy worldwide. BaxEnergy was founded in 2010 and has offices in Italy, Portugal and South Africa.
For additional information about the company and service offers, please contact us at e-Mail: info@baxenergy.com, Tel.: +39 095 733 5135, and visit www.baxenergy.com.


Swisspower hydro power plant generator

Energy as a Service

Ancillary software and hardware costs, as well as security concerns, disappear instantaneously when you move your power plant monitoring infrastructure to the cloud. In energy, a control room—even a virtual software-based control room—is always the first step of any process of digital transformation.

Swisspower Renewables logo profileMore often than not, on-premise software gives confidence that everything would be cheaper and more secure if left in the hands of the actual customer. Nevertheless, already five years ago the general software industry started mass moving towards a more flexible licensing model where software is offered as a cloud-based service for customers to subscribe and pay per use.

Swisspower Renewables is the first company to get BaxEnergy’s flagship product Energy Studio Pro® as a service. Hosted as an Azure virtual machine, Energy Studio Pro® now delivers the usual monitoring and control room services while shielding Swisspower from a number of ancillary tasks and costs.

Lars Hieke, COO of Swisspower Renewables, put it down quite neatly. “We’re a very lean company of about 35 people and we’re all dedicated, body and soul, to operate well 31 hydropower plants and 24 wind farms from our offices in Switzerland, Italy and Germany. It’s a remarkable number of small- to mid-size plants spread over a vast territory. Within this environment it is not appropriate to build and run a fully-fledged IT department with all the necessary knowledge and resources. We have even outsourced the basic needs of the company such as email, tracking documents, workflows and processes for our everyday administration. Here we already work with cloud solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint. At the same time, though, we do need to be able to keep the whole production cycle under control all the time and preferably from one single place.

Hence, Swisspower Renewables did some scouting to identify a reliable and trustful software partner. They examined several companies, then restricted to a short list and made the final decision.

We selected BaxEnergy for a number of reasons” Hieke says. “The most important was the quality of the products. The combo Energy Studio Pro® and AssetStack® was for us the perfect match to improve the value of our assets in the future. The proven ability to handle hydro and wind power plants in the same platform with such a high standard was outstanding. We were impressed at first sight. We hadn’t looked yet at the actual features in depth, but we immediately had the feeling that the product was just right for our needs. We didn’t feel the same for other products.”

Great, but why getting the BaxEnergy platform as-a-service?

We opted for a cloud solution for several reasons” Hieke continues “and all related to costs, both directly and indirectly.”

With a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, Swisspower Renewables saved the costs of additional software licenses not included in the on-premise BaxEnergy bundle (i.e., SQL Server and weather maps) and the costs of buying and operating all necessary hardware. Furthermore, Swisspower Renewables could offload to BaxEnergy the obligation and costs of implementing cyber-security and GDPR requirements.

Swisspower hydro power plant generators in Switzerland
Swisspower hydro power plant generators in Switzerland

There’s another benefit that Swisspower Renewables discovered along the way as Hieke summarizes:

Since the beginning, BaxEnergy proved to know the stuff and provided us with guidance and guidelines on how to do our own things just a better -digital- way. We were in the need of defining fixed rules and standards for the whole portfolio to optimize our internal processes. In the past years we were focused on growth of business and constantly acquired —for years—not only assets but companies having things done, in a way or another. Now it was the right time to do this harmonizationIn doing so, we particularly enjoyed the great chance to interact with an Italian and German speaking team. That was really a great plus!

In this regard, the open and interoperable nature of the BaxEnergy platform shined, as it allowed to configure all power plants to the exact needs of the customer. “The devil is always in the details” Enrica Trovato, BaxEnergy Project Manager, declared.

We faced the challenge of importing data from a legacy and third-party SCADA application. Thankfully, Energy Studio Pro® was designed from the ground up with an open interface to create connectors for external data sources. In this way, it only took us a few days to import data from the OLTEC platform.

Any software designed to monitor renewable power plants must be able to unify under a single roof data coming from heterogeneous devices built by different manufacturers. “More importantly” Hieke continues “the final software must be easy to use and configurable at the source to serve the needs of a technician as well as asset managers or board members.

One of the expected trends in the near future of renewables is companies trying to monetize more every single MWh of electricity produced rather than trying to produce more and more. “We’re somehow in the middle.” Hieke said. “Our immediate commitment is optimizing production as much as possible and we rely a lot on Energy Studio Pro® to minimize production losses. Clearly, we also look at selling electricity at any better price that’s possible and we see us more active in forecasting and trading as well in the future.”

Hydropower is an established technology but it’s very same nature—huge volume of water kept in a single geographical place—makes it a possible threat to people living nearby. “There are two aspects to security” Enrica Trovato notes. “One is digital security and we take care of that through our own software layers and Microsoft Azure.” The other aspect is physical security that is most related to crime.

Hieke explains: “Our hydropower plants are small but, obviously, they have been built where they can’t cause any major damage in any case. We do have due precautions in place, we have a clean near-miss record, and feel comfortable. We were more concerned about cyber-security instead. But now we have an array of industry experts at our service and we feel like we’re in a comfortable and safe position and want to continue expanding our business using the cloud as the storage and service platform.”

A SaaS success story in renewable energy solution is the living proof that the world of on-premise is inevitably destined to disappear. It won’t likely happen overnight, but the path is mapped out.

Pullquotes

  • BaxEnergy provided us with guidance and guidelines on how to do our own things just a better -digital- way.
  • “Our immediate commitment is optimizing production as much as possible” – Lars Hieke
  • In energy, a control room—even a virtual software-based control room—is always the first step of any process of digital transformation.


Microsoft EMEA ISV Executive Board Meeting

BaxEnergy and Free Mind Foundry welcome Microsoft

BaxEnergy and Free Mind Foundry welcome the 15th Microsoft EMEA ISV Executive Board, sharing new developments of the digital transformation


Acireale/Catania, November 8, 2018: Microsoft has chosen Free Mind Foundry (FMF) Innovation Hub, the largest independent Innovation Campus ever opened in South Italy, as venue for the 15th Microsoft EMEA ISV Executive Board, that therefore will be held in the beautiful Sicilian scenery on the slopes of the Etna volcano.

Microsoft gladly accepted the invitation of Simone Massaro, CEO of BaxEnergy, long-time Microsoft partner that deploys innovative solutions for energy and beyond exploiting Microsoft products, who is also co-founder of Free Mind Foundry, a unique place where passionate people are committed to change our society and our way of living and working.

Microsoft EMEA ISV Executive Board Meeting

During the 15th Microsoft EMEA ISV Executive Board, Microsoft will share with Independent Software Vendor partners its vision for the future of the digital transformation and how it is meeting the evolving needs of customers.

Free Mind Foundry Campus is pleased to follow Brussels and Zurich in hosting such a prestigious event, the first Microsoft EMEA ISV Executive Board hosted by a board member, keeping on in raising significant attention and interest across the institutional, academic and social environments, both at national and international level.

Tiziana Olivieri, Microsoft
Tiziana Olivieri, Industry Director Western Europe at Microsoft

Currently many digital companies operating in different markets work together side-by-side in Free Mind Foundry, coming from different fields such as renewable energy, VR video contents, videogames, artificial intelligence, Big Data and IoT like BaxEnergyIntelliSyncRed RaionStormind Games and WiSNAM.

For further information about the event, stay tuned on social media updates from Microsoft and BaxEnergy digital channels.


BaxEnergy is hiring students

Start your Journey with Us!

Start your Journey with Us!

About BaxEnergy

Hi. We’re BaxEnergy.

BaxEnergy provides the world’s leading renewable energy monitoring platform. Over 85 GW of green power monitored for customers in 18 countries. Our customers use BaxEnergy’s software, services, and support to transform the way they work with their assets.

As a company with offices in Catania (Italy), Berlin (Germany), Amarante (Portugal) Johannesburg (South Africa), Pune(India), and Bayraklı İzmir (Turkey), BaxEnergy transforms how organizations market and sell. Through its unique vision of the office space, BaxEnergy leaded the creation of the innovation hub “Free Mind Foundry” which currently hosts the Italian R&D center.

If you are looking for a place where you’ll enhance your skills alongside some of the most talented and dynamic people you’ve ever worked with, BaxEnergy might just be the place for you. Join us!

About the Environment

FREE MIND FOUNDRY is an inspiring place where Community, Collaboration, Sustainability and Innovation come together and young, talented and passionate people join forces to make new ideas come true.

Job Location: Italy

c/o Free Mind Foundry srl
Via Sclafani 40/B
95024 Acireale

Benefits

We offer to all our community:

  • Medical and health coverage
  • Severance package
  • Education assistance, books, trainings, software certifications examination and everything else you may need for your professional growth
  • Staff events (holiday parties, BBQs, recreational trips)
  • MBA-oriented bonuses
  • More than 10 collaborative spaces
  • Gaming room
  • Standing desks
  • A fully equipped cantina for free meals with 2 Italian chefs
  • A Health & Wellness space within the office
  • Free secure parking area
  • Equal opportunity

Just to name a few.

Submit your Application


Work with us

IT Junior Technician

Project Manager

User Adoption

Application Engineer

Java Backend Developer

DevOps / Cloud Engineer

.Net Backend Developer

Junior Solution Support

Solution Engineer

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The EnergyNet Summit

Announcing the First EnergyNet Summit

Controlling the Uncontrollable


The EnergyNet Summit
Free Mind Foundry Innovation Hub in Acireale

Back in 2008, in the middle of the worst financial crisis of modern times, the term “EnergyNet” was introduced to address the dream—and, to some extent, the need—of making energy flow over a global network ruled by strict and agreed-on protocols. EnergyNet was meant to be the internet of energy. Concepts like distributed storage, smart metering, in-home displays and, as a result, feedback-induced savings started being elaborated also on the wave of the President Obama’s “New Energy for America” program.

After that, the term EnergyNet faded away like a flash in the pan. Today, it only survives as the name of a few micro companies doing some small business around the domain of energy.

At BaxEnergy, we decided to revamp the term EnergyNet to introduce our first summit in the scenic landscape of Taormina, North-East of Sicily, Italy.

The EnergyNet Summit will be held 20-21 September 2018 with the purpose of gathering together, same place same time, industry experts willing to share their view of the renewable energy industry. It is a matter of digitalization, but it is also a matter of more accurate forecasts. It is a matter of storage, but it is a matter of trading and enabling direct marketing. It is a matter of cyber-security, but it is also—and most importantly—a matter of reconsidering structure and location of data centers.

It is a matter of effectively controlling what’s uncontrollable by nature. Today, regular software is just a commodity. Smarter software is needed and smarter software is built.

The EnergyNet Summit has already an impressive line-up of confirmed speakers from the energy and software industry, including Diego Percopo (CEO, EF Solare), Tiziana Olivieri (Industry Director, Microsoft), Emilia Visconti (CTO, EDF Energie Nouvelles), Alain Fremaux (Sales Executive, The Weather Company/IBM), Federico Campione (Head of Operations, ENI), Ingo Passenberg (Sr. Manager, Price Waterhouse Cooper), Tiago Santos (CTO, Smartwatt), Christian Felling (O&M Manager, ImWind).

Master of the revels will be Dino Esposito (BaxEnergy), the man who taught software to well two generations of software developers.

The full agenda will be out soon!

Stay tuned for more extensive coverage on the BaxEnergy web site and socials.

 


BaxEnergy joins the Wind Energy Asset Management System (WEAMS)

Space to Innovation & Technology funds for sustainable growth!

BaxEnergy joins the Wind Energy Asset Management System (WEAMS) Project, funded by UE and the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE)

What is it?

It has already started for BaxEnergy the 25 months WEAMS Research Project centred on the next-generation “technologies of information and communication” (TIC), particularly focused on the development of an Asset Management System capable to optimize renewable energy power plants, increasing assets’ efficiency and reducing maintenance costs.

In recent years, the power produced by renewables sources such as hydroelectric, eolic and photovoltaic has progressively increased, gaining a key role on the world stage. However, due to the adoption of brand-new technologies, there are still many challenges to be faced.

In response to many requests by its customers, BaxEnergy took the opportunity of joining the WEAMS project in 2016, working at the development of a powerful and cost-effective asset management platform aimed at an optimised schedule and management of the O&M (Operation and Maintenance) activities affecting wind energy power plants.

The project, with the approved amount of €1,287,402.56 (contribution from 25% to 50%), was funded by the MISE, UE and PON “Imprese e Competitività – Iniziativa PMI 2014-20”.

EAM market size in the next future

The Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Market size is rising from 3.15 billion dollars in 2016 to 5.24 billion dollars in 2021, with an annual growth rate of 10,7% thanks to the growing need of improving the assets lifecycle worldwide. The importance of monitoring and control of the resources in Middle East and Africa and the big investments in North America and Europe are leading the EAM market growth in many regions, bringing large companies to adopt enterprise software solutions to increase their ROI.

Source: Markets and Markets, Enterprise Asset Management Market by Software Application (Linear Assets, Non-Linear Assets, Field Service Management, Assets MRO), Service (Implementation, Managed Services, Training & Support) – Global Forecast to 2021.

WEAMS Project – Expected Results

As in any context, the expected results clash with technical matters, but technology helps. Among the requirements of the WEAMS research activity, besides the capability of the platform of optimised maintenance management there are the features of integration with different manufactures SCADA, documents and contracts management, work orders management, knowledge base management, easy access from mobile and even more. An important achievement of the O&M world is the association of preventive analysis with the predictive one.

Many causes could contribute to compromise the energy production of a wind park: such as the electrical equipment or the supply systems, a simple malfunctioning of a component, the lack of qualified technicians and even an excess inventory can increase the operating costs. That’s why an intelligent asset management and a proper planning of activities is fundamental to reduce any risk of outages and energy losses, optimizing the outflow of resources and technical equipment to promptly intervene into the power plants.

What We Did

Before the works started, BaxEnergy organized a workshop with its customers in Vienna in June 2016 at the headquarters of ImWind, customer with an active role in the project. The workshop was useful to collect different feedbacks from many players of the renewable energy field, in order to build a tailor-made “out of the box” software solution devoted to wind and still not present in the market.

We designed the solution as an enterprise asset management platform that will enable to easy handle and storage all power plants lifecycle information, operations and activities in one unique place with a customized approach. In this way, energy operators will be provided with a concrete asset management strategy integrated with enterprise wide functions of inventory, logistics, procurement, purchasing, financial and human resources. As a cutting-edge EAM solution we also planned to include into it the scheduling of activities, work orders creation, maintenance history as well as equipment, components and documentation tracking and HR functions like maintenance skills database.

The project is going on and involves 7 Goals and 27 Activities that demonstrate the effectiveness of the entire work in order to provide the final results by the end of 2018. Moreover, two academics from the Information Technology and Telecommunication Department of the University of Catania will spend about 2 months at ImWind headquarters to study and go deeper into some functionalities of the solution and then, they will come back to our R&D Center in Sicily for the next developments. We are going to implement always new features to support Utilities, IPPs (Independent Power Producers) and power plants owners to make their company processes leaner through automatic workflows, secure their information accessible from mobile anytime, anywhere, optimize maintenance costs, improve efficiency and extend their assets lifecycle.

We are proud of the interim achievements so far and determined to reach with our customers all predefined goals!

UE

PON – Imprese e Competitività:

MISE:


Control and Monitoring Room Baxenergy

Setting up a control room - Free Guideline

Control rooms have been around for about a century now and can be described as a facility where the production of goods is monitored in some way. The definition of “goods” is quite widespread and ranges from physical goods produced in factories to spatial missions. Production of energy sits somewhere in between these two extremes.

A control room is a common space where, in addition to checking operational data coming from configured power plants, operators can also remotely act on devices and send commands to start, stop and fine-tune the production level. A control room is a sensitive installation and for this reason it is usually manned 24x7x365.

With a control room, the owner company invests on continuous surveillance in order to minimize, to the greatest extent that it is possible, the reaction time in case of events that affect the working state of a remote device.
Conveying data from power plants in one place is crucial for efficiency. The canonical software that runs in a control room is essentially a HMI system capable of visualizing live data flows as they are received from power plants. Sophisticated software applications also automatically analyse data to recognize recurring patterns and detect alarm conditions, trends, classify events and produce forecasts for production, prices and maintenance of physical devices such as turbines, inverters, substations, met masts and more.

The first two sections of the whitepaper give a deep walkthrough about control room layouts and hardware equipment. The third part goes through the activities lead by the operators.

If you want to learn more about cause-effect, downtimes, workflows, ad-hoc reports with custom KPIs, download our white paper.


Gated content - Setting up a Monitoring Room

People in the control and monitoring room

Effective Maintenance for Power Plant Devices

From total nightmare to wild dream

A wind turbine is a wonderful piece of mechanics that uses wind to generate electricity. The force of the blowing wind operates three blades that, connected to a rotor, spin an electrical generator. Under the hood of those gigantic turbines we sometimes see offshore, or on the top of a hill, a number of electronic components work orchestrated by a controller. In addition to the controller, in a turbine there are components like anemometer, blades, brake, gear box, low- and high-speed shaft, pitch, generator. A wind turbine has an average lifetime of about 20 years and during this time any component it is made of is subject to regular maintenance and, in some cases, replacement.

A solar panel is made of a number of solar cells. Each cell consists of four layers: an anti-reflective coating captures and retains sunlight thus ensuring that two underneath silicon layers can convert solar energy into electricity. The silicon layers and, more importantly, their actual chemical configuration is crucial for the process to work. At the very top of the cell, strips of conductor material move electricity out to its final destination. Electricity is generated as direct current that an inverter turns into alternate current.

Generally, a solar panel comes with a 20-year guarantee and usually it keeps working after that time at least at 80% of the original capacity. Solar panels may need direct as well as indirect maintenance. Direct maintenance is fixing or replacing parts. Indirect maintenance includes ancillary tasks like cleaning surface from dust, weeding and cutting grass.

How would you perform any due maintenance on these types of generation units?

Scheduled maintenance is the most common option. In this case, components are checked periodically according to a predetermined schedule that doesn’t necessarily take into account the actual state of the component, weather conditions or exceptional situations. It’s a good-enough approach with a number of drawbacks. For example, maintenance may be scheduled when it is not necessary given the workload of the component. Imagine a broken turbine that stays out of order for a long period because it is inaccessible due to severe winter conditions. In this case, the consumption of its components may be significantly lower than other turbines in the farm. When scheduled maintenance occurs on that particular turbine it could be a bit ahead of real need. Another drawback of scheduled maintenance is that, well, it may also happen too late when the component is already broken or seriously damaged.

Condition-based maintenance uses fixed rules to calculate the ideal time for maintenance based on the actual wear of components as reported by embedded sensors. Typically, a control room software would allow to trigger alarms based on KPIs calculated out of the raw numbers returned by sensors. The good news is that no unnecessary maintenance is carried out and by fine-tuning alarms one can reserve a margin to postpone or anticipate maintenance according to volatile conditions such as bad or good weather. The weakest point of condition-based maintenance is that alarms parameters must be set by the rule of thumb and are subject to the highly variable human ability to learn from numbers and mistakes.

It seems then that both scheduled and condition-based maintenance may work but none is perfect. The next step is predictive maintenance.

Predictive maintenance aims at hunching what would be a good time to intervene. It requires constant monitoring of the generation units and abundance of data from internal components. This is already the case with most commercial solutions out there that collect raw device data and aggregate into sensible indicators. Numbers alone aren’t sufficient though.

Analytical algorithms are required along with an effective data model that figures out the hidden patterns of when failures on a given type of component is more likely to happen. In addition to sensors that communicate state and performance numbers via industrial protocols such as OPC and its variations additional equipment and logic is needed. For example, sensors to measure noise, heat and humidity, ultrasonic microphones, and cameras. Arranging a data model that result in an alarm in presence of certain measurable conditions is not a trivial task. It requires machine learning techniques and empirical algorithms. It’s a good challenge for data scientists.

Predictive maintenance is not here yet but it is being talked about a lot meaning that it really addresses a core concern for the energy industry. The good part is that predictive maintenance is not sci-fi but it’s getting real and more production-ready every day thanks to the growing availability of cognitive services in most cloud and software platforms.


Dino Esposito

Blockchain for Energy: Doubts and Facts

Minigrids and Smart Contracts

Today the energy world, and not just it, is pervaded by the Blockchain fever. For the most part, it is only the due diligence of innovation teams in front of new technologies and ideas. But the part of it that is most loudly perceived is marketing and maybe the fear of missing any possible opportunity. The mix of marketing and fear creates the buzz and the buzz virally explodes in this hyperconnected world. Blockchain seems to be the magic cure for all diseases but it’s not clear if it’s the most effective cure or just the newest of the many possible.

A Possible Scenario for Energy

For some time in many countries the installment of renewable local plants has been stimulated by a fixed feed-in tariff. The age of feed-in tariffs is closing and owners are being forced to sell energy in excess via direct marketing. Gaining access to the marketplace is very complicated for small producers and this creates the need for a sales service to sit in the middle to handle and guarantee transactions between parties.

It seems to be a good use-case for a Blockchain-based system.

BaxEnergy, as well as other companies, is experimenting solutions to facilitate energy direct marketing, with and without the Blockchain paradigm. The key element to consider here is the real problem we want to solve more than the technicalities that could be employed. Here’s the sketch of a solution.

The solution is built around a software module that performs two tasks:

  • Implements the trading logic to match demand and response and issue power regulations commands if needed
  • Interacts with the (mini)grid for the actual delivery of energy

The expression “trading logic” can be turned around in a few different ways. Without Blockchain, it would be a canonical piece of trading software capable of dealing with transactions ensuring integrity and compensation should something go wrong. It would be in no way different from stock exchange markets and a central authority would be there monitoring the flow and setting governance rules. The core application would be deployed on a cluster of nodes to be scaled up or down.

Private Custom-built Blockchains

At the same time, though, the network of nodes could be laid out to operate as a private and permissioned Blockchain. Looking around, the most natural fit seems to be the Ethereum platform—a decentralized, Blockchain-oriented platform that runs smart contracts. A smart contract is a regular contract set between parties written in a programming language rather than in legalese words. Technically, a smart contract is a collection of programmatic methods to approve and execute the contract and broadcast its outcome to the network. Ethereum is a platform that simply knows how to persist and enforce smart contracts. Ethereum is a merely a software platform for developers to create custom-built Blockchains. The custom Blockchain can be public or private. In both cases, a user willing to join must apply and install some software on his own machine. What happens next depends on the nature of the installed software. The Bitcoin’s Blockchain software also contains infrastructure for users to opt-in as miners and validate transactions. In an Ethereum scenario, the custom software simply defines the governance rules of the platform and might even restrict access to only a known set of users. Whether the Blockchain is public or private and permissioned depends on the business case.

Do We Need Blockchain in Energy?

The scenario depicted above is not futuristic and a few implementations exist and are attempted all over the world. In our vision, the point is not whether the scenario in the picture above makes sense or not. It does make sense. Most likely, Blockchain would be a fit for such a system.

But do we really need a Blockchain for that?

Users of the overall system are end consumers looking for energy at cheapest prices possible and producers of energy whether small companies, big utilities or ultimate prosumers. All users of the system need to get an account in order to connect to the sales service and the marketplace application. Whoever is willing to sell through the system will install an IoT device to monitor what’s produced and to receive power regulation commands from the marketplace application to start/stop production as it seems more convenient given current prices.

The prosumer’s IoT device makes available for sale tokens of energy to be produced. A token of energy is an immaterial good that refers to an abstract value. Like a digital coin, the energy token is a computer file that turns into value at some point when the energy is physically generated by the power plant and delivered to the grid. Like a digital coin, an energy token can’t be double spent meaning that it can’t be delivered to, nor it can’t be bought by, multiple consumers. In this regard, the mechanics of the Blockchain, as summarized earlier, makes perfect sense. At the same time, consumers use a plain mobile application to place BUY orders to the marketplace. The marketplace application matches BUY and SELL orders, arranges a smart contract and stores results permanently. Finally, the database of the marketplace is shared across all the nodes in the network.

Let’s focus a bit more on the smart contract for energy. Generally speaking, a great example of a smart contract is a vending machine: you put coins, you select the good and if amount is correct you get the good. Otherwise, inserted money is returned or remainder is given back. In energy, a smart contract would ensure that the token of energy being sold is then actually produced, delivered to the buyer via the grid and finally paid.

We believe that the key point here is “via the grid”. If the you deliver energy through the transmission system operator (TSO) then you’re still in the loop, connected to the national or regional power grid. In this context, the Blockchain is just an overly complex database that doesn’t really solve any problem in a new way. Everything that passes through TSO is in a way certified in terms of the current law.

The story can be different if a mini-grid is detached from the power grid or, to some extent, forms a microcosm at the edge of the national or regional grid. A mini-grid is very small by design. Users must live next door and contribute energy produced for example by rooftop panels and sell internally. Apparently, in this way some costs might be cut off—for example the fees paid to the power grid and utilities which deliver energy but, in the end, the mini-grid has a cost. Whoever provides it, gains control no matter the Blockchain technology is used. Then you might prefer trusting the provider of the mini-grid rather than the national TSO and you might prefer to pay fees to the mini-grid manager rather than the utility but you are still trusting and paying somebody. Costs might be possibly lower, but that also depends on the amount of bureaucracy in the country.

Is Blockchain Really a Breakthrough in Energy?

Delivery of energy is different from delivery of digital money as in Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies. Delivery of energy passes through the power grid. This is a fact.

Blockchain is neither a product nor a technology. At most, it is a storage paradigm. The Blockchain is not a public repository where someone can just store data, whether smart contracts or files representing monetary transactions. Every application must code its own Blockchain in order to store its data in a way that is scalable and trustworthy.

So, in what we trust?

The Blockchain concept of a public network surely works well for the Bitcoin’s digital cash scenario it was created for. The specific purpose of Bitcoin, in fact, was creating a digital cash system and bypass the role of central authorities like SWIFT or mints. In addition, Bitcoin is the first protocol ever able to resolve in some way the problem of double spending and it does that through Blockchain. Put another way, a digital cash system to conduct anonymous transactions would not be currently possible without Blockchain. Or, at least, in this scenario Blockchain is a breakthrough enabling things that just weren’t possible before.

Do we really need Blockchain in energy trading?

To implement a system for energy trading, Blockchain may or may not be used. Canonical database technologies might work as well and might be cheaper to implement and faster as development doesn’t have to cope with new and out-of-band technologies.

For players in the energy space, instead, Blockchain and all the hype around it we breathe every day has to be an incentive to rethink some aspects of the business model and shake the foundation of known problems to find better and plausible solutions.

Hamlet used to say that his was madness but there was method in it. And so it is Blockchain, at least for energy. There is hype in it, but also hope that rethinking problems as if we were going to apply Blockchain the industry ends up with better solutions than today for common problems.