The Electric Grid & Ancillary Services

ᚨᚾᚲᛁᛚᛚᚨᚱᛁ ᛊᛖᚱᚢᛁᚲᛖᛊ ᚨᚱᛖ ᚦᛖ ᛚᛁᚠᛖᛒᛚᛟᛟᛞ ᛟᚠ ᚦᛖ ᚷᚱᛁᛞ

What is instability? Exactly what does the term "Ancillary Services" mean? How does the Electric Grid benefit from this? All these questions are key to understanding the main service that Mjolnir Energy aims to provide, and in this section you will find more detailed answers about the nature of power generation, frequency fluctuations, and the role that Mjolnir Energy plays within each.

Instability & the Electric Power Network

As you probably already know, the electric power network operates upon a fundamental philosophy: power demand must equal power generation. This most basic of equations is the bedrock upon which every single electric device and power plant counts on. When you flip on your light switch, you expect to see light -- and that means some facility, somewhere, must generate that infinitesimal amount of additional power at that very moment. While a single light bulb is a drop in the ocean relative to the entire power network, the same principle applies to anything connected to the grid -- be it a toaster, an entire supermarket's worth of refrigerators, or an iron-smelting industrial plant. 

In very basic terms, this balancing problem can be broken down into two distinct aspects: the generation side and the load side (demand side); it does not matter on which side of this problem a utility network operator acts upon, all that matters is that the balance between loads and generation is kept. 

In the Nordics, there are many different types of electric power reserves standing by to avoid a runaway imbalance scenario. Different Electricity Markets have been created to ensure that there is always sufficient incentive for generators to produce power when we as a society need it the most. However, times are quickly changing, and new technologies such as Renewable Energy generation and Electric Vehicles may upend this carefully maintained balance. Unfortunately we cannot control when the sun shines and when the wind blows, which means that increased Renewable Energy penetration threatens the stability of the generation side; new loads, such as EVs which tend to charge in bulk during certain hours, threaten the demand side. By adding this volatility -- or power instability -- to the network, existing containment measures need to be extended to ensure the electric grid continues to work reliably. This is the problem that Mjolnir Energy is trying to solve -- on both sides of the balancing equation.

For more information about Electricity and Reserve Markets in the Nordics and how these try to prevent blackouts, click the button below or check the Latest Insights section under our Technology page. 

Ancillary Services & Mjolnir Energy

So what exactly are Ancillary Services? "Ancillary Services" is a blanket term used to describe the management of power flows in a way that gives utility operators additional flexibility. Flexibility is an easy concept to understand: it gives power operators additional freedom or leeway to operate the electric network in a balanced way; that simply means it gives more tools for changing the amount of either power generation or power demand during certain windows of time. Normally, when this is done on the line side of the transmission or distribution system, these are called flexibility, utility, or ancillary services. 

An important thing to know about all these services, is that they are mainly concerned with maintaining the system frequency, which is the frequency of electricity on the power network. The system frequency essentially tells operators how balanced the grid is: if the frequency is higher than it should be, then there is more Generation than Demand; if it's lower, then Demand is too high. The default value, or nominal value, of the system frequency is 50Hz in Europe and 60Hz in North America. Mjolnir Energy seeks to participate in what are known as Frequency Containment Reserves, which act to make sure the system frequency doesn't deviate too much from the 50Hz mark.

With lithium-ion batteries, which are able to charge and discharge, we can essentially act as both a generator and a load --- this allows us to give significant flexibility to the utility operator. This transformation between a supplier of electricity and a consumer of it is what gives Mjolnir Energy the versatility to help the operator. What's more is that through our bi-directional chargers we are able to transform EVs from loads to sources of power when needed, which means we can help on both sides of the balancing equation simultaneously; that is, we eliminate the demand from the EVs and during that same time window, increase the available generation (or vice versa).

In reality, Mjolnir Energy envisions a connection on the Load Side of the equation (therefore Demand Side Management) rather than on the Line side, but our benefits are unchanged.  The same amount of power that would be used to increase Generation would instead be used to decrease Demand by equal amounts. Remember, what matters is not the actual amount of Generation or Demand, only that these quantities are balanced. Check our handy animation below to visualize what we mean!

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Frequently Asked Questions

As far as the Utility Operator is concerned, yes: Mjolnir Energy changes the demand profile of a facility by charging or discharging its batteries based on needs of the operator. We do this by taking all of our installations' capacities and bidding them on the Reserve Market. This doesn't require any special communication either --- simply by measuring the frequency of the grid, we know exactly whether to charge or discharge our batteries and electric vehicles. We have other benefits for facilities and EV users, so check those out as well!

Well, because our batteries and chargers would be installed downstream (behind) the facility's meter, we are technically a form of Demand Side Management (DSM). We say that we provide Ancillary Services because traditionally Reserve capacity and participation in the Frequency Containment Market was done by large generators, such as hydro power plants --- but let us be clear: although we are  a form of DSM, by aggregating our services together, over time our benefits can have the same net effect for Utility Operators as large sources of Reserve capacity. 

Lithium-ion batteries when coupled with power electronics based converters have very unique advantages, namely the speed of activation. Increasingly fast response times are needed in order to maintain system stability, and our batteries are able to actuate almost instantaneously compared to spinning reserves such as thermal, hydro, and even gas power! There are different types of markets with different needs of course, but we will be seeking to provide fast primary reserves. 

This is a fundamental question, but basically it comes down to this: By using EVs as aggregate capacity, we are able to increase our aggregate capacity without the need to pay for very expensive batteries; that simply keeps our costs down and our venture competitive. However, it also allows our value to the Utility Operator to increase --- by converting EVs from loads to sources and vice versa, we essentially double our flexibility capacity: ie. If we have 1MW of EVs charging and acting as a load (-1MW), and we suddenly start discharging them and using them as generators (+1MW), the net effect from the operators point of view is 2MW of difference. 

We incentivize EV users by providing free charging for them. It's as simple as that: the more someone uses our charging stations throughout the year, the more money they'll save. And they won't have to worry about their batteries degrading either: Mjolnir Energy's use of EV batteries is significantly less taxing than a regular drive, and we take extra care to use them only when really necessary. Additionally, we offer a battery buy-back program at the end of life of your EV, so you can rest assured you're getting your money's worth from our service.

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