Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems arm has secured a partnership with robotics and technology firm ABB, which will see the companies collaboratively developing a new microgrid solution for commercial and industrial applications.
Under the partnership, Rolls-Royce will share insight regarding the power system solutions it currently sells to utilities and other firms through its MTU Onsite Energy brand with ABB. Most of its services in this field involve autonomous microgrids.
In return, ABB will give Rolls-Royce information regarding the manufacture, installation and operation of its modular microgrid solution, called e-mesh. The overall aim is to develop a new solution which combines the two technologies.
According to ABB, the final product will use Cloud operations, weather and load forecasts and machine learning to help power generation asset owners make key decisions, such as when to pay for maintenance or implement energy efficiency measures. This will enable users to optimise the energy they use across their sites and fleets.
Crucially, the Swiss-Swedish firm claims that it will be able to ensure power grid stability, even with a high proportion of renewable energy from different sources, as it will combine power from distributed renewable energy generation sources with battery storage, bolstering it with a smaller proportion of coal and gas-generated electricity.
“Due to the transformation towards decarbonisation, customers need to pursue sustainable power options that also deliver utmost profitability,” Rolls-Royce Power Systems’ chief executive Andreas Schnell said.
“For this, we rely primarily on microgrids, which are autonomous energy supply systems that are efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly. Combining our integrated MTU diesel and gas genset system technology and our control solutions with ABB’s modular microgrid solution, control capability and remote service will offer customers the combined strengths of the two world leaders in technology.”
ABB and Rolls-Royce have not yet confirmed when the solution is due to be brought to market but the partnership is badged as a multi-year initiative.
From motorcars to microgrids
The move from Rolls-Royce Power Systems comes shortly after the firm purchased an unspecified stake in German energy storage company Qinous, which describes itself as a “system integrator of smart plug-and-play energy storage solutions”.
Rolls-Royce said that it had made the investment in a bid to support grid stability as more and more renewable energy projects come online, increasing grid volatility. The microgrids which Qinous produce combine co-generation plants, diesel and gas generation and renewable sources with batteries and a control system to promote energy security.
This investment marked its first foray into microgrids, but Rolls-Royce has been “actively exploring” flexible energy generation led by battery storage since last year. It hopes these moves will help the company meet a 2025 target of halving its CO2 emissions against a 2014 baseline.
Rolls-Royce is just one of several firms to have invested heavily in new, low-carbon energy technologies in recent times. Nissan, for example, fitted microgrid systems in facilities across developing nations last year, in a bid to provide new power sources to those without access to reliable energy grids. Similarly, Tesla and Renault have been using microgrid solutions which incorporate electric vehicle (EV) batteries to create “smart” energy networks on a community scale.