Actility Smart Energy solution harnesses Orange batteries to secure France’s electricity grid during demand peak

The Actility Newsroom

Actility Smart Energy solution harnesses Orange batteries to secure France’s electricity grid during demand peak

French consumers and industry have been protected from power outages on several occasions this winter by Actility’s Smart Grid technology exploiting the capacity of thousands of batteries at Orange locations across France to mitigate the effects of high demand peaks and associated power surges. Actility has been working with Orange, RTE, the largest Transmission System Operator (TSO) in Europe, and Enedis, the largest French Distribution System Operator, to provide and activate a “clean demand response” capability in response to spikes in energy demand. The system has been called into action several times already, achieving a temporary demand reduction of 10MW initially, and more recently reaching 15MW.

“These successful interventions on over 7000 sites in a matter of minutes, clearly demonstrate the power of a Smart Grid enabled by the intelligence of the IoT to enhance the capabilities and resilience of the electricity transmission system and to protect its customers,” comments Actility CTO Olivier Hersent. “We’re also creating a new opportunity for Orange to create value from its back-up capacity, which is normally a rarely-used ‘insurance policy’.”

“To prepare tomorrow’s grid, combining electricity and digital, RTE is developing innovative market mechanisms,” says RTE’s Sales Manager for Market Services, Laurent Lamy. “The aim is to enlarge the scope of solutions that could provide balancing services. The use of these existing batteries is one good example of new type of flexibility having a positive impact on power system balance. We are satisfied that our clients take all business opportunities from services developed in France”.

“At Enedis, as a DSO, we are committed to facilitating market participation of distributed energy resources and we are pleased to enable this Actility and Orange initiative that illustrates the evolution of the energy system: decentralized and customer-centred” says Emmanuel Husson, Director of Customers and Markets at Enedis. “At the intersection of digitalization and the electricity system, such smart grid innovation will be fostered by the ongoing roll out of smart metering, and new business models will be triggered, relying on consumer empowerment and new technologies.”

Orange has over 7000 fixed telephone relay stations and broadband internet routing sites which are essential to the operation of the company’s networks. Sustained operations are guaranteed during power outages, thanks to a high-capacity array of small back-up batteries installed at each site. The battery stores sufficient energy to  keep the site operational for an extended period without external power supply. RTE, the French TSO, sends load curtailment requests to Actility in case of unexpected demand surges. 

Actility’s Smart Grid application translates those requests into control requests to the Orange sites. The local energy management systems switch over from distribution grid supply to using a maximum of 50% of the energy stored in the battery, maintaining the resilience of the site. The system responds within 9 minutes and supports the grid for up to one hour, and the process can be repeated if required.

To track possible impact on battery lifetime cost-effectively, Actility concentrates on the monitoring only a few parameters of the battery behaviour. Using dedicated algorithms, Actility could prove the accuracy and reliability of impact tracking across multiple sites, preventing the need to install dedicated hardware. Given the vast number of sites involved, this  significantly reduced implementation and run costs.

“We’re dealing with thousands of essential sites, so we can’t afford any mistakes,” comments Cedric De Jonghe, Manager of Actility’s Energy Business Unit. “We have to take all of Orange’s constraints into account in real time,  including the fact that some sites may not be available to us. What’s particularly interesting about this project is that instead of starting a diesel generator, we are switching to batteries, a  “green curtailment” which of course is much better in times of climate change and a new awareness of the impact of pollution.”

“We would like to welcome Actility’s initiative for its pioneering activity in Europe, which places France to the forefront of distributed energy resources management and energy storage innovation worldwide”, adds Cedric Thoma, responsible for smart grids, hydrogen and energy storage with the French Energy Ministry.

Looking for smart energy sensors? What is essential is invisible to the eye!

NKE Watteco's smart energy sensors for connected buildings.

The Actility Blog

Looking for smart energy sensors? What is essential is invisible to the eye!

NKE Watteco's smart energy sensors for connected buildings.

A significant player in IoT with its range of smart sensors, NKE Watteco manufactures products to meet every requirement of remote and complex data collection. Its recent involvement in the Smart Grid Vendée project has displayed its expertise in providing innovative solutions to optimize energy consumption and harvesting.

A 20-year leadership

NKE Watteco’s leadership is backed by over 20 years of experience in the design, development, industrialization and manufacturing of electronic products for harsh (GPS for the Dakar race) or highly secure (electronic locks for the banking industry) environments.

A couple of years back, the manufacturer pioneered by prototyping the first LoRaWAN™ sensors. Alongside with its partner Actility, NKE Watteco contributed to developing this disruptive technology. NKE’s core business is to manufacture smart sensors. Actility provides the network, use cases and business opportunities that NKE needs to promote them.

All NKE products are now LoRaWan compatible and can be deployed either in private or public networks.

  • Their very low consumption and energy harvesting capabilities are definite advantages
  • Their battery life ranges between 5 and 7 years or more for energy harvesting
  • The ability to collect and compress the highest volume of information possible makes them the only sensors to manage and use all the data available on an electrical meter

NKE produces sensors for and around buildings. Its devices measure temperature, water level, air pressure, and they will eventually also measure air quality and noise pollution. Electrical, water and gas meters remote reading are becoming routine in managing resources effectively.

Energy data harvesting

Let’s take a closer look at some of how these sophisticated sensors are implemented in smart energy use cases!

The energy harvesting temperature sensor

NKE Watteco is the only company offering a fully self-powered wireless sensor that is able to rely on the light only. In the absence of light, the device is powered by a lithium battery to maintain operation up to three months – on the basis of 24 measurements and one transmission per day. This device measures temperature, humidity, luminosity and voltage battery. Parameters can be locally stored, concatenated and compressed. Data transmission information is performed as often as every 10 minutes.

The NKE temperature sensor is used by the French social landlords, Habitat Toulouse to optimize the number of sensors necessary in energy-efficient refurbished homes. Energy Harvesting sensors also enable optimization of insulating works in a building with a sustainable development and energy efficiency purpose. In doing so, it plays an important part in designing buildings infrastructure and optimizing energy bills.

“The dynamic data rate provides the flexibility to run high-resolution sensing applications with private networks, or lower resolution monitoring applications, with the same products.” Jean-Luc Malaval, Deputy CEO, NKE Watteco

IN’O State report and output control sensor

Once NKE’s IN’O is plugged, it’s immediately ready to connect to the LoRaWAN network. It can pilot up to four different processes of the object monitored (heater or boiler for instance): on/off status, turn on/off, measure energy consumption and store energy data. The IN’O is fully configurable and among the lowest energy-consuming on the market (Class A), it was a perfect match in the Smart Grid Vendée deployment. Hundreds of them have been implemented by Actility in Western France’s public buildings such as schools, libraries, town halls…. These smart grid devices are very easy and flexible to control and command. For example, one can program the sensor to send a data frame every hour.

Smart plug

This smart plug can be connected to a mains outlet (230V/110V). It is used to control (switch on and off) a load connected to it and to measure the power consumption of this load. It allows measuring active and reactive power, voltage and mains frequency. This module can be set up directly on a power socket. Inside the smart plug is a switch allowing for remote control in order to let the power in or not.

More intelligence to consume less

The ZCL application layer intelligence from ZigBee, inside all NKE Watteco devices, means optimal flexibility and simplicity to deploy, control and manage them. Developers access to advanced standard semantics to control sensors. For example, you are able to configure a temperature sensor to advise you only when there is a 0.5°C difference instead of having the sensor communicate all the time that the temperature is stable. This software intelligence developed by NKE Watteco enables developers who are familiar with the ZigBee application layer to easily move to LoRaWAN™.

But ZCL has other very concrete benefits for end-customers: smarter sensors consume much less energy inducing huge operational cost savings. If your energy sensors communicate less and more relevantly, the need to replace them or their batteries is drastically reduced. All this while getting the relevant and granular data needed to reduce buildings energy consumption!