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GE wants to build virtual power plants using Blockchain

GE is investigatingblockchainpotentially integrating technology into a virtual power plant (VPP) offering, probably provided through the company's Predix platform.

Steve Martin, Chief Digital Officer of GE Power, told GTM that the move was the response to a general trend that goes from large central plants to distributed generation. GE has traditionally limited exposure to this area.

"With the transition to distribution, the types of plants that are of interest in different parts of the world seem to change," Martin said. "There is interest in plants that are more average and more able to operate the butterfly valve, and it is also interesting to close those plants with energy accumulation frontally".

GE was increasingly asked for facilities with shared ownership facilities or, at the other end of the scale, coordinated aggregate assets to work unison, Martin explained.

In October, GE Power Digital participated in a study to evaluate the use of blockchain technology for energy applications.

The study, launched by the German energy agency (Deutsche Energie-Agentur or dena), will examine whether blockchain applications can be managed economically and reliably in case of industrial use. energy, GE said in a press release.

The results of the study, which will cover asset management, data management, market communication, energy trading, use of funding and tokenisation, should be published in spring 2019.

In addition to GE, other organizations taking part in the study include Siemens and a number of European energy companies, such as Verbund of Austria, BKW of Switzerland and EnBW of Germany, as well as the German Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences.

Martin said that the information stored on blockchain could help VPP operators to meet market demands more accurately.

Although GE is thinking of considering various blockchain technology options for the project, the obvious choice for the company will be a version of IBM's Hyperledger framework, which has already been implemented on the Predix industrial Internet platform.

GE offers Predix as an on-premise or cloud-based system, but software can also work on the edge of networks, a feature that is potentially useful for distributed energy applications.

Martin said that one of the goals of GE's blockchain work would be to make sure that technology could operate at a level of aggregation "that the market needs and the market wants", rather than being limited by current blockchain capabilities.

"I think we are going to conduct a very large experiment on what could become the largest distributed computing application in the world," said Martin.

GE's interest in the blockchain is shared by a growing number of large players in the energy sector. The last few months have seen a series of energy blockchain partnerships, from Engie who works with IOTA to BYD and DNV GL that binds to VeChain.

GE may have a particular motivation for jumping on the wagon cart, though. Historically, the company has operated in the large energy sector infrastructure, supplying products such as gas plants and wind turbines.

Some of these segments, particularly those related to thermal generation, are now threatened. For example, peak gas production plants are experiencing increasing competition from wind power plants and solar energy storage. "The world is moving to a distributed energy generation paradigm," Martin admitted.

GE hardly has a presence in the distributed energy market. What he has, however, is a considerable experience in software and industrial systems, developed mainly for the management of large power plants.

The company hopes to use this experience to offer its customers a virtual version of yesterday's large power plants, linking non-proprietary resources together in a VPP.

"The pilot work we are doing now is multi-vendor, multi-hardware," Martin said.

Blockchain will help manage data collected from a heterogeneous set of devices, he said. At the same time, GE is working on an industry standard to allow devices on an energy network to record their status, capacity and capacity for limitation.

"This is done on a vendor-by-vendor basis and getting some consistency will enable us to manage these devices intelligently, as well as ensuring that we are translating energy to and from them appropriately," Martin said.

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