Exclusive Interview with the The smarter E AWARD Finalists 2020 (Smart Renewable Energy)

Expert Interviews – Thursday, June 18, 2020

Innovations in the renewable energy industry are driving the modernization of the energy infrastructure worldwide. Every year, The smarter E AWARD honors all companies that already contribute to an intelligent, sustainable and cost-effective energy supply.

On June 4, 2020, this year's The smarter E AWARD Finalists 2020 in the category Smart Reneable Energy were officially announced. We interviewed them exclusively and asked them about the importance of the finalist nomination, their innovation and the need for future innovation in the renewable energy industry.

Thanks to all nominated companies and interview partners (who took part in the interview):

  • Bachmann electronic – Ms. Janine Buchwald-Nolte, Dipl.-Ing., Product Management BU Wind (Bachmann)
  • Fronius International GmbH – Mr. Richard B. Schuster, Product Management (Fronius)
  • Greentec Development GmbH – Mr. Ralf Tschanun, CEO (Greentec)
  • Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen GmbH – Mr. Holger Kretzschmar, Head of Sales - Power Quality Products (Maschinenfabrik)
  • Next Kraftwerke – Mr. Jochen Schwill, CEO and founder of Next Kraftwerke (Next Kraftwerke)
  • Quantron AG – Mr. Serhat Yilmaz, CMO - Chief Marketing Officer (Quantron)
  • Shenzhen Growatt New Energy Technology Co.,Ltd – Mr. Ray Cheng, Overseas Marketing Head (Growatt)
  • SMA Solar Technology AG – Dr. Andreas Paetzold, Platform Product Manager (SMA)

What does the nomination mean for you and your company?

Bachmann: We are thrilled with the nomination of our Smart Power Plant Controller (SPPC). Our goal is to help customers optimize their energy generation through cutting-edge automation. Bachmann developed the SPPC in response to increasing customer demand for a smart, certified grid coupling solution. We are extremely proud that The Smarter E has recognized this achievement and are excited to be part of the awards process.

Fronius: Since Intersolar is a worldwide leading trade fair for the entire solar industry, connecting companies and people all over the world to increase the share of solar energy supply, it is a great honour for Fronius to be nominated for the Intersolar award 2020. To be choosen out of a vast number of projects by experts says, that we are on track, on the pulse of time with our products to support the energy transition.

Greentec: We feel honoured being nominated for this award. It increases visibility among potential clients and the awareness of challenging the status quo. It is always a risky proposition and sometimes a battle to introduce a new way of thinking into established industries. Being nominated certainly boosts our motivation and reinforces our belief that we are on the right way. On top, it helps us attracting international talents to join our company, make our platform better and allows us to further grow.

Maschinenfabrik: As finalist, the whole team is very proud and of course curious to see how things will continue. For MR, primarily known among transmission and distribution grid operators, it means above all a huge opportunity to receive a great deal of attention for our innovative power conversion systems. For these products, The smarter E ideally embodies target industries in which we are still almost unknown. The nomination is a stroke of luck for the product launch of our High Power Chargers.

Next Kraftwerke: It is a strong confirmation of the work we already did and the work we want to do in the future by taking our Software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution NEMOCS to the market. If the honor also comes from within our own industry, it naturally weighs particularly heavily.

Quantron: The nomination means a lot to our company and brings us a step closer to our goal of paving the way for e-mobility in inner-city and regional passenger and freight traffic. Because with increasing awareness, more and more people are becoming aware of e-mobility in the field of commercial vehicles and can inform themselves about emission- and CO2-free solutions.

Growatt: It is a great honor for us! Growatt is dedicated to becoming a global leader of smart energy solutions. Innovation is in the genes of our company. The innovative GroHome system provides householders a combination of intelligent solar energy generation with energy efficiency – increasing the solar power self-consumption rate, while reducing the household’s overall energy consumption. It also provides convenient access to the smart control of household appliances through IoT technology.

SMA: We are very proud that the SMA Power Plant Manager has been selected as one of the finalists for The smarter E AWARD 2020. The nomination confirms us that networked intelligent management of renewable power plants will play a major role in shaping the energy supply of the future.

What is special about your innovation?

Bachmann: Bachmann responded extremely quickly to develop a controller that meets the latest VDE-AR-N standards (4110 & 4120), now mandatory for all German hybrid energy parks with an energy output greater than 135kW. The SPPC is fully certified to this standard. We combined Bachmann’s high-performance hardware and embedded industrial grid measuring software into one, multi-tasking platform. Customers can add their own software based on a data pool according to IEC 61850, and can configure this software using the atvise® pure web visualization, which comes pre-installed on the SPPC. The product is delivered ready-to-use and no additional programming is required, making it user-friendly and easy to implement.

Fronius: With Fronius Solhub we enable the customer to produce its own green hydrogen on-site where it is needed. Out of renewable energy the customer creates his own energy carrier which is versatile applicable. And so it is the Solhub. With its modular and scalable design it is able to grow and adapt to the customers hydrogen demand, which results in less initial costs and risk. Furthermore functions/features can be added afterwards. Hence, the customer decides when he wants to utilize hydrogen for commercial vehicles running on 350 bar, cars which needs 700 bars, for re-electrification purposes or if he wants to utilize the waste heat to support his local heating demand.
With upcoming energy communities decentralized storage opportunities are needed. Dezentralized hydrogen production will help to facilitate energy communities and in the course of that the enhanced installation of renewables.

Greentec: The raicoon Autonomous Operations Center is an innovative product with the capability of changing the O&M industry sustainably using new technologies like AI and ML available today. Many other agile companies today are developing tools to improve the quality of operations of renewable energy systems. raicoon takes it one step further - not for providing tools for the engineers to base their decisions on but rather providing an intelligent system that makes the right decisions for them. More accurate and faster than it was possible before.

Maschinenfabrik: A year ago, our energy storage inverter was honoured with the EES Award as the "Swiss army knife of inverters". By adding a newly developed, SiC-based, galvanically isolated DC-DC converter to the modular system, we are now opening up the very dynamically growing market of high power charging. The function of an energy storage inverter is directly integrated in the charging station and energy can also be regenerated back from the vehicle battery. GRIDCON(R) HPC thus offers a high degree of flexibility and sustainability for the operator of the charging station. Thus, the use at a weak 400 V network can start by means of a directly connected buffer storage. A later conversion, e.g. to grid-compatible operation on a separate transformer with increased storage and even vehicle to grid functionality is possible at any time.

Next Kraftwerke: The share of renewable energies in the system is constantly increasing. For many market participants, this gives rise to key questions such as 'Which asset feeds how much electricity into the grid at any given time'. To provide answers, we have developed our SaaS solution NEMOCS. With NEMOCS, we are bringing to the market a product based on the experience gathered from operating our own VPP for more than 10 years. Since 2009, Next Kraftwerke has operated its VPP, which has since grown to nearly 8,800 linked assets. These include energy producers from a variety of renewable energy sources and industrial energy consumers, making Next Kraftwerke the operator of one of the world's largest VPPs. Developing NEMOCS, Next Kraftwerke has included many ideas and features that our own IT experts have gathered from their experience over the years and put into use with our own SaaS solution.

Quantron: The special thing about our innovation is not only our products but also the concept we pursue. Quantron AG has set itself the goal of operating sustainably. The focus is on a emissions and C02 free future. Thanks to Q-Remanufacturing, used and existing vehicles that have already produced emissions are electrified. The emissions saved from vehicle production are used to offset the CO2 emissions from battery manufacture. Another unique selling point of Quantron AG is that it specializes solely in commercial vehicles and their electrification. This is exclusive within Germany. By cooperating with numerous partners, we are constantly trying to develop ourselves further in the area of e-mobility. Our Q-Engineering team is currently researching on a hydrogen propulsion technology and how to make our drive systems even more efficient.

Growatt: A new lifestyle of “smart + comfort” is the future. The GroHome system integrates a solar PV energy system with energy storage, EV chargers, water heaters, and internet-of-things (IoT) devices. With the smart management, household appliances will be activated when there is surplus solar power exporting into the grid, which will maximize the solar power self-consumption rate. Also, surplus power can be stored in the battery or EV for consumption at a later time, or even be transferred into thermal energy as usable heat. Furthermore, GroHome also integrates a free software platform, which is really convenient for users to access the smart and remote controls of the whole energy system, to create multi-zone controls and hotkey for your homes.

SMA: The SMA Power Plant Manager provides comprehensive energy management, grid supporting control functions and reliable monitoring for large-scale renewable power plants. Based on the innovative ennexOS IoT platform it supports the entire value chain for modern, future-oriented products and services in the energy industry. Together with SMA's grid forming inverters the Power Plant Manager enables unique system capabilities like black start, backup power supply and automatic grid synchronization.

What future innovations does the renewable energy industry need?

Bachmann: Smart automation is the future of the renewable energy industry. It will optimize resources, improve energy generation efficiency, and reduce waste. In turn, power generation levels will increase, whilst the production costs decrease, making renewable energy even more affordable. Automation technology will play a major role in creating global, efficient, sustainable energy solutions.

Fronius: Energy storage to facilitate the installation of renewables and balance production and demand. Transition from centralized production to more decentralized units needs a sophisticated and reliable system management.Technologies which allow sector coupling. Innovation in policy to commit to the climate target, to allow investment reliability and due to this support innovation done by companies.

Greentec: An automated approach, utilizing cutting-edge machine learning and neural networks will be essential to reduce operational costs and increase profitability of an asset. Smarter approaches to dynamic load balancing on a grid level are necessary to achieve a 100% renewable electricity grid that incorporates large amounts of decentralized energy generation and storage capacity.

Maschinenfabrik: Car charging stations are becoming larger, highly frequented and their demand for renewable energy is increasing. The combination of renewable generation, intermediate storage and charging into the vehicle must be scaled efficiently. This ultimately leads to DC distribution networks.
Bidirectional use of "rolling storage" is becoming important, thinking less of cars and more of buses and trucks.

Next Kraftwerke: The renewable energy industry, and the energy system, needs to become smarter to be effectively and efficiently managed. We need to establish digital layers on top of the existing infrastructure to enable a smooth communication and to operate thousands of DER as one. This enables us to tap flexibility potentials needed in a world with more renewable energy, to ensure the stability of the system.

Quantron: The renewable energy sector will require many innovations in the future, especially with regard to charging infrastructures and recycling. In the future, charging infrastructures for commercial vehicles must be available faster and better. An extensive network of charging stations is required. There must be also innovations in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

Growatt: Green and independence are the eternal subjects. Future innovations would be built upon IoT, Big Data and AI deep-learning, which are used to support the prediction of energy generation and consumption, enhance the smart control functions. That creates a complete ecosystem for a green smart home and households will gain energy independence from the grid. GroHome ultimate mission would be this.

Please complete this sentence: "Renewable energy means to me / us ...

Bachmann: ... everything! Renewable energy is the cornerstone of Bachmann electronic. Our automation technology is integrated in more than one hundred thousand wind turbines worldwide, and we are extremely active."

Fronius: ... a technology which secures energy supply for everyone, everywhere and leaves a liveable, sound world for the future generations.

Greentec: ... to commit ourselves towards a sustainable future for our and future generation and to preserve nature. This is driving our passion for renewable energies."

Maschinenfabrik: ... the basis for sustainable e-mobility. This requires particularly efficient and smart solutions for sector coupling between renewables and the transport sector."

Next Kraftwerke: ... democratization of the energy sector through teamwork. Or in short: The Power of Many!"

Quantron: Renewable energy means the future for us!

Growatt: Renewable energy means to us the green and smart lifestyle: power your homes with 100% green energy, enjoy a smart and comfortable life. Growatt slogan is “powering tomorrow”, we will keep trying!

SMA: ... the most cost-effective energy source in all regions and the only alternative for a sustainable global energy supply."

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