Scotland’s Faraday Grid has bought two Czech companies according to a blog on its website, using up some of the $32.5 million it raised in January to pay for them. It has already converted these acquisitions into a third 100 strong “innovation” center for its supposedly revolutionary technology, the Faraday Exchanger. We presume this is to support early market pilot installations of Faraday Exchangers and their associated software.
We understand this is a development which turns the transformers (which step current up and down between two electrical circuits), into something resembling a router within digital technology, It allows electrical energy to flow in either direction, across any particular route to any destination. The Faraday Exchanger also has the benefit of stabilizing grid frequency as it does it and the upshot of using it to replace traditional transformers is to allow a grid which can accommodate a huge amount of renewables energy, despite their intermittent nature, something holding them back on some electricity grids. The Faraday Exchanger was first shown 16 months ago, and is currently being tested by UK Power Networks, once the London Electricity Board, which looks after the grid in London and the South East.
You may ask why would a company with just $32.5 million in funds, waste any on setting up an innovation center in the Czech Republic. In our experience you only do that in preparation for firm orders from local customers and to stimulate further business. Most tech firms will work closely with one lead client to perfect its offering and make sure it works, before looking further afield, which suggests that a UK deal is a lot closer than late 2020.
The blog talks about “permission-less” innovation, which is clearly a dig at solar panels in households, and how they are beholden to the Government to set a Feed-in Tariff, which has just been suspended in the UK. If a network installs these Exchangers, a home in the UK might send its electricity to an enterprise during the day, when the home is not using much electricity or to a series of car charging units, to make money, and spend than on its own electricity during the evening.
Part and parcel of the technology is something CEO Andrew Scobie has described as an emergent transactional platform, which is tying up a system of control of energy distribution with the ability to trade that energy based on best offered price. The entire website does not use the word “blockchain,” in any brochureware quite deliberately. Clearly a system of routers either has a centralized audit trail or a distributed one, to tell you where all the energy ended up. And if it is a distributed ledger then the likely candidate is Blockchain?
We searched Faraday Grid and Blockchain and came up with a January blog which confesses that the system uses Blockchain inside (or something like it), but that no-one needs to know that or be subjected to its complexities, because it is simply a step away from centralized control to distributed control. Interestingly unlike digital currencies, all of the elements of this grid will be in the control of one agency, the company who runs the grid, so this is more about sorting out who, out potentially millions of generation points supplied the energy to whom, out of multi-millions of users.
But this is not the sole change here. This is also a new type of transformer, under the control of this distributed ledger and it has been designed to retrofit into existing grids, and sit alongside older transformers. Grid upgrades can happen one node at a time or all at once, and the starting price will be something like $10,000 per unit, depending upon grid design. And this ledger can also be used to balance the energy moving around the Grid.
The company says that previously, control was achieved in grids through the inertia of thermal generation, essentially dialing the knob up and down to balance what was a more predictable and controllable system.
Just accommodating electric vehicles and making sure the energy is credited to the right account, may be a reason to upgrade using this technology or something like it (because there are bound to be many more like it in development). The system also claims to be using AI, which suggests that at some stage, these Faraday Exchangers report transactions to a cloud app, for consolidation and perhaps for billing, and to build up a background of experience in transaction types, which can then be used to improve the system’s performance by applying machine learning.
The company says the Emergent Transactional platform is designed to manage electricity generated from any location and from multiple generation sources, and delivered to wherever it is needed. The company has claimed on multiple occasions that this will facilitate the shift from 30% of renewables being a maximum on any one grid, to 60% or even 90% being possible.
The Emergent transactional network combines multiple Faraday Exchangers to improve power flow efficiency with the Emergent transactional layer facilitating energy exchanges at market based real time pricing.
The idea of all this is not just to facilitate feed-in tariffs, but genuine entrepreneurial use of energy trades of all type. The website says “Users, large and small, will be able to set the price they are willing to pay for electricity, and make choices about how the electricity they purchase is generated
It will allow the grid to evolve, enabling new technologies to fulfil their potential…”
Faraday Grid says that the Emergent transactional layer is jointly owned with a company called Amp, known for funding small renewable supplies in the UK.
The technology was unveiled in late 2017, and it is likely that it would remain in stealth mode for a technology of this kind, for at least 3 years. On that calculation a customer may not emerge into the public domain for another 12 months or even longer.
Key features listed of the Faraday Exchanger is that it can independently control output RMS voltage, control input RMS voltage. maintain frequency, maintain target power factor, remove all harmonics and maintain balance between phases. This would make a number of other technologies such as transformers, tap changers, StatComs, harmonic filters and capacitor banks redundant in grid design.