An Electricity Grid for the Digital Age

An Electricity Grid for the Digital Age

Taavi Madiberk, CEO of Skeleton Technologies and speaker at the Digitising Europe Summit 2019, says that the digital economy needs a reliable energy supply, and even the smallest of fluctuations can wreak havoc.

As the Vodafone study “The Tech Divide” shows, in order to be better accepted in Europe, the digital economy and its applications need to offer clear benefits to all Europeans, not just the early adopters. Safety remains a concern in countries like Italy and Germany and there is also widespread unease about artificial intelligence (AI), robotisation, job losses, infringements on freedom, data security, privacy and other issues.

Taavi Madiberk is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Skeleton Technologies. His business development, sales and marketing and company management skills have been instrumental in setting-up and driving growth. He has been the driving force for excellent customer traction, (the company counts as customers European Space Agency and several Tier 1 automotives), business strategy (leveraging the advantage in materials technology to energy storage cells and modules), product development and fundraising from venture capital, private equity and public sources in German, Estonian and EU level. Mr Madiberk brings knowledge from the IT, locomotive and NGO sectors from his experience prior to Skeleton Technologies. Among other Board positions he has served as the youngest ever Chairman of the Supervisory Board in Estonian Railways Ltd (AS Eesti Raudtee) from 2012-2014 the national railway. He also served as a Member of the Supervisory Board of RKAS in 2014, an Estonian state-owned real estate company with over 400 M EUR of assets (Photo: Skeleton Technology)

But there are other hurdles that must be addressed as well. In addition to the new digital economy, Europe’s vision for 2020 includes a move towards lower emissions through the adoption of renewable energy systems and, in the transportation sector, the adoption of cleaner, more efficient technology. It is expected that the advent of technologies associated with the digital economy โ€“ such as the Internet of Things, 5G, and encryption systems โ€“ will significantly increase energy demands.

Furthermore, other key developments in the digital economy, such as electronic component manufacturing, require an extremely high-quality power supply. Minute fluctuations in frequency and voltage lead to invisible defects on circuit boards or chips, creating large amounts of extra work.

This will be a tough task for an electricity supply mix in which renewable and decentralised energy will be predominant. The problem with electricity coming from renewable sources is that it creates current disturbances in the grid, and the digital control of its output, in terms of voltage and frequency, is quite challenging. With wind and solar, the fluctuations in the energy supplied to the grid need to be stabilised almost instantaneously. Doing so requires a highly responsive energy storage system that immediately palliates the fluctuations introduced by the Trenewables.

Skeleton Technologies is currently showcasing a 90-kW peak-power ultracapacitor cabinet in a 100 percent renewable energy microgrid. The Isle of Eigg, located off the coast of Scotland, is a great example of how the digital economy can work in conjunction with the goal of reducing emissions for the benefit of everyone. The ultracapacitor cabinet helps provide a current with tightly controlled voltage and frequency, thereby ensuring no system shutdowns. In addition, as the fast-reacting part of the energy storage system, it assures that the lead-acid battery array does not fully discharge (deep cycle) which is detrimental to its lifetime.

Beyond the grid, Skeleton Technologies is also making inroads in the urban environment by helping reduce bus emissions by 36 percent. Double-decker bus manufacturer Wrightbus used to rely on batteries to save energy by way of their Kinetic Energy Recuperation System (KERS). Our ultracapacitor module replaces their battery pack and helps reduce emissions in addition to lowering maintenance needs and marginally increasing seating capacity. Thanks to their high-power density and their much longer lifespans, with over a million cycles, our ultracapacitors have a key advantage over batteries, whose lifetimes are typically limited to between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles.

Whether on the Isle of Eigg or inside the double-decker buses, sophisticated control systems constantly monitor the energy levels of all components digitally. Without any level of digitisation, this would be impossible.

But there is also another area in which our ultracapacitors can be a difference maker.

In the context of the digital economy and new forms of warfare, the recent dispute between Serbia and Kosovo over electricity supply has created unprecedented disturbances throughout the entire European grid. Clocks were beginning to deviate from standard time as a result of delivery frequencies being outside tolerance levels. With their fast reaction time and high-power density, ultracapacitors could be the new defensive weapon of choice against potential grid threats.

Taavi Madiberk on energy in the digital economy at the Digitising Europe Summit 2019 (Photo: Valerie Kloubert)