Growing the Biggest Virtual Battery in the Nordics
Rapid growth in renewable electricity production is fueling the need for innovative energy storage and management solutions around the world. Fortum, a leading Finnish clean-energy company, provides customer solutions in electricity, heating, and cooling as well as smart technology for improving resource efficiency. Fortum Spring is an IoT startup that uses HiveMQ and MQTT to realize innovative customer solutions in the competitive electricity marketplace.
Consumers play a big role in energy system transformation. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2040 one billion households and 11 billion smart household appliances will actively participate in electricity markets. Fortum Spring is an intelligent software solution that optimizes and balances electricity production and consumption in the power grid. Their Virtual Battery connects thousands of residential water heaters as well as home batteries, commercial storage, and grid-aware charging stations for electric cars. The idea is that the excess energy storage and production capacity of their customers can be put to good use and generate revenue when it is controlled in a smart way.
Fortum Spring uses MQTT and the HiveMQ MQTT Broker to control the widely distributed energy resources of their customers so that renewable energy is consumed at the optimal time. As a result, customers can simultaneously contribute to a greener planet and get the highest possible revenue from their energy storage investment. In the energy sector, this model is called demand response.
Operating a Virtual Battery with Real-Time Measurements and Advanced Algorithms
To prevent outages or the need to draw on expensive backup systems, energy consumption and production on the power grid must remain balanced. The advanced control system Fortum Spring provides can swiftly mobilize the energy use of their customers for grid balancing purposes. As in most control systems, reliable communication with devices in the field is critical. This is where MQTT and HiveMQ really shine. When Fortum Spring began operation in 2016, they knew that MQTT was the right protocol for their project. After testing various MQTT solutions, developers at Spring Fortum quickly decided that HiveMQ had what they were looking for: reliability, scalability, security, and speed.
"We started with Apache ActiveMQ, but it didn’t perform well in our stress tests," says Juhani Rantaniemi, Demand Response Specialist, Fortum Spring. "Also, it has a maximum for the number of devices you can connect and could not handle one measurement per second and all that. So we started using HiveMQ."
Fortum Spring installs devices (their own or those of their partners) next to the electric water heater, battery, or solar panel of the customer. Through HiveMQ, they can set batteries to charge or discharge, turn water heaters on and off, or stop and start the production rate of solar panels. The goal is to make customer assets work in a way that profits the environment and the consumer, automatically, and with no disruption of normal daily life. Based on the current state of the grid, it can be desirable for a customer to temporarily halt consumption or production. The marketplace is willing to pay customers for that flexibility. Fortum Spring expertly manages all interaction with the energy markets for each of their connected customers to optimize energy consumption.
Energy markets move quickly. To respond to changing market demands in near real-time, Fortum Spring relies on HiveMQ as their core technology platform:
Simple gateway devices continuously measure the energy load or amount of solar production.
Devices communicate securely through a mobile network.
HiveMQ and all related Fortum Spring microservices are hosted on AWS EC2 and ECS instances.
HiveMQ handles the flow of MQTT measurement data from devices to the cloud and pushes commands and settings from the Fortum Spring microservices in the cloud to the devices.
HiveMQ Provides the Reliability that is Crucial for Demand Response
Extreme regulation is an inescapable part of doing business in the energy sector. Maintaining the necessary compliance depends upon a secure, flexible, and resilient solution. The HiveMQ broker ensures that Fortum Spring consistently adheres to the strict requirements of grid operators.
In most cases, devices are required to send one or more measurements on a per-second basis. HiveMQ fulfills several important requirements at Fortum Spring:
Advanced clustering capabilities for low latency and high availability
Observability through the HiveMQ Control Center
Load balancing with shared subscriptions
Quality of Service levels for guaranteed message delivery
Open extension framework for easy integration of additional features
Secure transport with TLS to ensure privacy and data integrity
"The most crucial bit has been the latency. If a power system goes into a non-stable state, we must react extremely fast. Commands can take no more than a couple of seconds to reach the gateways."
Beyond communication with their gateway devices, HiveMQ blends seamlessly with Fortum Spring’s microservice architecture. When the message is at the broker, a consumer microservice takes all the measurements and stores them to a Cassandra NoSQL database. From there, other services can interact with the data as desired and then use HiveMQ to push selected data back to the devices. The HiveMQ broker interacts efficiently with all the services.
"We expect to have more than 10,000 households connected to our Virtual Battery in the near future. In this quickly evolving marketplace, it’s important to have experienced and professional partners. With HiveMQ we have found the messaging platform and the knowledgeable support that we need as we build a smarter, cleaner, and more responsive energy system."