New innovators: NovoGrid start-up can boost revenues for renewable providers

NovoGrid helps make the transfer of renewable energy to the grid more efficient

NovoGrid chief executive and co-founder, Peter Richardson

NovoGrid chief executive and co-founder, Peter Richardson

 

Renewable energy is clean, green and good for the planet. But it still has to be commercially viable to attract investors. Currently, producers are losing potential revenue due to limitations with how energy is transferred to the grid. Irish start-up, NovoGrid, has the answer – a software solution that manages the transfer efficiently, thereby cutting costs and increasing revenues for renewable energy providers. 

“The inefficient delivery of energy from wind farms for example can result in an estimated loss each year of around €2.3 billion for wind farmers around the world. With the anticipated big increase in the use of renewable energy, this figure could easily triple by 2020,” explains chief executive and co-founder, Peter Richardson. “We’ve developed a smart grid control solution for renewable generators, such as wind energy and solar photovoltaic generators, that helps deliver energy more effectively to the electricity grid.”

Richardson’s co-founders are Andrew Keane and Paul Manning, and the idea for the business was inspired by studies carried out by Keane’s research group in the school of electrical and electronic engineering in UCD. Keane is an associate professor in the school, and previously worked for ESB Networks. Richardson is a former senior researcher in the school and he was awarded commercialisation funding from Enterprise Ireland in January 2014 for the investigative research that subsequently led to the formation of NovoGrid.

Paul Manning is the company’s commercial lead and he has previous start-up experience in the energy sector.

“Andrew’s research found that the inefficient transfer of energy was leading to unnecessary wasted energy and lost earnings for the generator owners,” Richardson says.

“Our technology (which is called active voltage assessment platform technology) manages the output of individual generators in real time to reduce these losses, resulting in more energy being transferred to the grid. The platform will be of interest to wind farm owners and/or electricity network operators around the world and our initial target market is Europe, followed by North America.”

Complex solutions

There are already a number of companies operating in the smart grid automation sector with the aim of helping producers increase the energy efficiency of electricity networks. However, Richardson says their solutions are complex and costly.

“Several of these companies provide hardware-based solutions and this can mean high capital costs for customers,” he says. “Others rely on extensive and expensive communications networks to implement their solutions. NovoGrid’s patent-pending technology is integrated into the producer’s existing renewable generator equipment and does not rely on an extensive communications infrastructure to work.

“In short, we have developed an elegant, cost-effective solution for increasing the energy delivered from renewable generators to the grid.

“Our algorithms analyse local network conditions and autonomously choose the appropriate operating set point for the wind farm at that time with no need for central control or communications. By doing so, our software can improve the annual energy production of an individual wind farm by one to two per cent compared with existing solutions, at a relatively modest cost,” he adds.

NovoGrid was established in late 2014 and is based at Nova, UCD’s innovation hub. The technology validation process is due to be completed at an Irish wind farm in a few months’ time and sales will begin in early 2017.

It has cost roughly €50,000 to bring the platform this far and this has come from Enterprise Ireland, the National Digital Research Centre (where the company participated in its Venture Lab accelerator in 2015) and from consultancy projects. The company was awarded high-potential start- up status by Enterprise Ireland earlier this year and is now looking to raise around €1 million in venture funding to accelerate its development.

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