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Life as we know it would be impossible without electricity. But as our supply of fossil fuels, the energy source for electricity, continues to dwindle, we face a major challenge. This has prompted worldwide action to spread environmentally-friendly sources of renewable energy such as solar and wind power generation.
The use of such types of renewable energy is steadily increasing in offices, factories and homes.
Because the energy output of renewable energy fluctuates depending on the time of day and weather, a constant balance must be maintained using grids. A solution to overcome these challenges and maintain a stable energy supply is needed.
Two elements play an important role in the creation of networks that support the stable supply of energy: energy storage systems scaled to fit the purpose, and the ICT that controls them.
In societies where large volumes of renewable energy are introduced, an increase in the number of approaches to efficient energy use on both the supply and demand sides of the energy equation can be expected.
Let's say, for example, that the demand side has introduced renewable energy. By visually representing power generation volumes and consumption volumes, we can imagine that energy use can be curbed and energy temporarily stored in a storage system for later use. On the supply side, we can also envisage a scenario where, to maintain supply and demand balance, large volumes of energy would be stored using a storage system and then later be efficiently output.
In addition, linking the energy supply and demand sides via ICT to foster mutual collaboration creates an energy storage partnership. During peak energy consumption periods, whole communities can efficiently use power by flexibly sharing it.
NEC has been providing power suppliers with high-performance, high-reliability electric power communications networks made up of wireless or optical communications and control terminals. By fully developing and utilizing this technology, NEC will continue supporting stable energy supply from the electric power communications network perspective.
NEC is also conducting field trials to apply the expertise gained through the development of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and consumer use to high-voltage, high-current, large-scale energy storage systems.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) are systems that automatically read the values on power meters installed in houses through wireless routing. These systems can obtain data on power usage in homes and businesses, remotely switch the power supply on and off, and check power demand volumes on a 30 minute cycle. This makes it easier to estimate power demand and provides a basis upon which decisions can be made about the suitable timing for upgrading infrastructure.
NEC is building communications units, gateway controllers and meter reading data collection systems that connect houses and businesses with power supply companies. It also supports more streamlined meter reading operations.
There is concern that current advanced electrical power grid systems may face various problems when distributed power sources, such as PVs, are introduced on a large scale.
NEC and the Chugoku Electric Power Co., Inc. have been jointly conducting demonstrational experiments on a transfer cutout system that will remotely disconnect distributed power sources from the power grid immediately following the detection of outage.
In addition to building large-scale energy storage systems for grids, NEC is participating in field trials to enable the reduction of power consumption during peak hours and power equalization through the installation of energy storage systems within community distribution networks.
NEC and Chugoku Electric Power Co., one of Japan's largest power companies, are working together to develop and conduct demonstration experiments of the transfer cutout system for distributed power sources. The goal is to be able to provide a stable supply of high-quality electricity to customers even in areas where a high volume of distributed power sources such as household solar power generation have been adopted.
NEC is collaborating with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the largest electric power laboratory in the United States, to evaluate a large energy storage system that utilizes NEC's lithium-ion battery technology. R&D aims to expand the scope of the system's application and realize a large-scale energy storage system that offers high-level reliability, large capacity and long life.
NEC and Enel Distribuzione (ENEL), the distributor for Enel SpA, the leading Italian power company, have agreed to build a strategic partnership to develop new Smart Grid technologies and solutions.
The two companies will build an energy solution system based on lithium-ion batteries developed by NEC and ENEL's power distribution network. Field trials will be conducted in Italy. Each company will leverage its respective technological and operational assets to realize Smart Grids and Smart Cities.