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18 September 2020 - Sustainability

Pilot with backup batteries of local telephone exchange enters next phase

After a trial period of three months, KPN has received the first results of the latest circular back-up battery that optimizes the use of green energy in a local exchange in Amersfoort. A special algorithm will be developed in the second half of the test phase to ensure that green energy is also available during low-sun and wind-free periods.

In May, KPN, together with partners Allinq, ICT Group, and Eneco began research into how the hundreds of back-up batteries that the telecom company uses in local exchanges can contribute to the energy transition that the Netherlands is going through. These batteries were originally intended to deal with power cuts in local exchanges, but because power outages rarely occur, in reality they are almost never used.

Less gray energy
Almost all of the back-up batteries will need to be replaced in the next five to ten years. For KPN, this is a good moment to investigate whether the new batteries can be used to store green energy surpluses. At moments when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing energy, suppliers fall back on gray energy, which is not sustainable. “In the second part of the trial, we want to be able to control the battery in such a way that it charges when there is a surplus of green energy and discharges when there is a shortage, so that we always use the green energy that is generated”, says Silvana Lefel, energy innovations advisor at KPN.

Sustainability is an integral part of KPN’s strategy. For example, KPN has been using green energy exclusively on an annual basis since 2011, has been climate neutral since 2015, and aims to be virtually circular by 2025. With the green back-up battery, KPN wants to contribute to the acceleration of the green energy transition in the Netherlands.

Green score
Although the battery in Amersfoort is already showing promising results after three months, KPN continues to investigate how energy storage can be optimized. Partner Eneco has developed a monitor for this that displays a so-called ‘green score’. “This shows, per hour, what percentage of the energy used in the local exchange is generated green”, says Lefel.

When no green energy is available, the so-called market mix is purchased: the type of energy that is available on the market at that moment. In order to be able to use green energy at such times in the long-term, ICT Group is developing a special algorithm for KPN. “Based on sun- and wind forecasts, the battery then charges when there is a surplus and this green energy is used at a time when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining,” explains Lefel.

The new batteries must offer a reliable and sustainable solution for the challenges associated with the current energy transition going on in the Netherlands. KPN has hundreds of back-up batteries distributed throughout the country. When the trial is scaled-up, a real impact can be made and the transition to green energy can be accelerated.

About the study
The study will take six months and is being carried out using a Nilar branded lithium ion battery with a capacity of 230 kWh. The battery has been installed at a single location in Amersfoort. The test will determine whether flexible storage and feed-in can usefully be applied at KPN. If the results are positive, studies will be carried out in the future on whether the neighborhood around the telephone exchange can benefit from them. This research is in collaboration with partners: Allinq, Indutecc Renewable Solutions, ICT Group, Dexter, Eneco, Nilar and Ferroamp.