Founded in 2015, Swiss startup Power-Blox has developed a new technology it describes as Swarm Power, to allow anyone to create a ‘plug and power’ energy grid that is completely autonomous, scalable, and decentralized, while requiring no management, configuration or maintenance.
In a swarm, the most complex systems are governed by a simple set of rules and that are acted upon without the need for centralized decision making, and as the individual entities within the swarm follow this set of rules they interact with one another without knowledge of the swarm’s behaviour, giving rise to an ‘intelligent’ global behaviour for the entire system.
Power-Blox has taken this concept and applied it to a power grid, imparting intelligence to modular 200W battery elements conceived as a universal energy interface and that can be combined with any external energy source or storage device. The company's first product, the Power-Blox 200 series can easily be connected or even stacked, power generation, storage and distribution are done with a fully decentralized architecture to manage fluctuating current, as opposed to a smart grid which needs a centralized architecture.
The energy in the swarm is stored in nodes and every component of the grid learns how to adapt to the current state of the grid by observing the grid parameters and adapting its behaviour with the use of artificial intelligence.
Each cube provides 200 Watts of alternating current and can provide power for lighting, one refrigerator, a television and mobile phone / laptop charging. The cubes can be powered by an optionally provided solar unit or from any external source (such as solar, wind, hydrothermal, biomass, or a generator etc).
When a minimum of 2 Power-Blox are combined, proprietary algorithms enable the system to adapt and react with swarm intelligence, creating a Swarm Grid that can provide sustainable and regulated power for schools, hospitals, telecommunications infrastructure, agricultural equipment, remote tourist resorts, events / festivals, disaster relief, and up to entire villages and towns.
As more units are connected, the swarm grid allows each user to benefit from the full power of all units.
The scalability of Power-Blox is essentially limitless due to the modular architecture of the system. Anyone can scale energy storage and production by simply incorporating additional units into the system as energy requirements increase. Additionally, the cubes are completely ‘Plug and Power’ and don’t require any special configuration, engineering, or expertise when adding additional modules to the system.
Compared with ‘Smart Grid’ technology, a Power-Blox Swarm Grid offers the same ‘smart distribution,’ load balancing, and energy management, but requires no centralized architecture, software or configuration. The company expects its Swarm Power technology to change not only how off-grids are built and operated, but also how conventional power grids operate.
According to Power-Blox, as the amount of available renewable energy increases, the design of today’s public grids are failing to tap the full potential of renewable energy. The new approach could address the challenges of public grids in a fundamental way: on one hand, it removes the need for a centralized architecture and control; on the other hand, it provides power storage capabilities inside the grid, as well as in the ‘last mile of the grid.’
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04 September 2017
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