In Brazil, the Smart Microgrid project takes off

Published on Monday, 13 March 2017

Customer centricity is one of the pillars of Enel's strategy for growth and development. In this mission, digital innovation and advances in power generation and technologies have allowed our company to develop smart systems for energy management and to bring them to all the realities in which we operate.

In Brazil, Enel Distribuição Ceará has started the first phase of a cutting-edge project in the South American country in recent days. It consists in building a smart and integrated system for renewable energy generation, distribution and storage which will change the face of the relationship with our residential customers.

The Smart Microgrid project will be implemented in a neighbourhood in Fortaleza, a city in the north-eastern Brazil, where a showroom has been set up to present the technologies that will be installed and put at the disposal of a group of customers.

The initiative has in fact a dual nature. On the one hand, the aim is to introduce innovative and more efficient systems for the management and distribution of energy in Brazil. On the other, it is extremely valuable for educational purposes, because it will contribute to shape a new culture on the use of energy through the active participation of consumers.

The users involved in the project will become producers, i.e., 'prosumers': they will produce energy by installing photovoltaic panels on homes and, at the same time, they will have the opportunity to manage their consumption through real-time monitoring of the energy generated and consumed, through the use of specific applications that can be used on smartphones and tablets, keeping track of their loads and consumption even remotely.

The pilot phase will involve 300 homes with high energy consumption (about 780 kWh/month) in Alphaville Fortaleza, a district of the municipality of Eusébio, 27 km away from the capital. The goal is to set up an autonomous smart grid that will also be able to manage various services in the area, such as recreation areas, public lighting and more.

The microgrid which is connected to the distribution network accumulates the electricity produced during the day so that it can be tapped during a blackout or to balance power demand on the local dispatching network. In the case of a voltage drop, the microgrid is automatically activated and can, for example, deliver power to priority loads (refrigerators, safety equipment, lighting) for at least one hour.

This infrastructure uses renewable energy sources—solar and wind—and storage systems. While the houses will produce energy from solar energy, customers will be able to monitor in real time production and consumption levels, with the help of mobile and tablet applications, in addition to being able to control loads remotely. The energy that is not consumed immediately will be stored in high-tech batteries and sent to Enel Distribuição Ceará, generating credits for the electricity bills of residents.

The first phase of the project provided for the installation of this system in homes and common areas of the residential complex. The next steps will be the modernisation of meters of the entire complex, the installation of a centralised power storage system based on lithium technology and a system for the remote management of public lighting for more than 300 lampposts.

The technologies that will be implemented in Fortaleza are the prerequisite for projecting urban realities into the Smart City dimension. It is a sector in which our group has consolidated experience in recent years, from collaboration in the realization of the smart city for the Milan Expo 2015 that was held last year in Italy to several projects involving cities in Europe (such as Malaga in Spain and Bologna in Italy) and in Latin America, including Santiago in Chile, Botà in Colombia and the "Smart City Búzios” initiative in Brazil.