Based in Amsterdam, Vandebron is an energy platform that connects consumers with Dutch producers of sustainable energy. Customers choose which producer to consume electricity from, giving them insight into exactly where their energy is coming from. Local producers work together with Vandebron to sell their energy for a fair price, giving them the opportunity to invest in even more sustainable solutions. More than 300 energy producers and 180,000 customers are now connected to the platform and more are expected to join over time.
Managing the flow of energy between producers and the energy grid in the Netherlands takes a great deal of planning, monitoring, and technology. That's where OnLogic computers come in.
Industrial Raspberry Pi computers for energy curtailment
So, the more sustainable energy the better, right? Well, yes and no. One of the main challenges in sustainable energy production is that there are few good ways to store green energy on a large scale. As such, it most often needs to be used as it's produced. However, the output of renewable energy sources can vary significantly due to changes in weather conditions. If the output of these sources exceeds the demand for electricity, it can lead to an excess of energy on the grid, which can cause stability issues.
To help combat this challenge, Vandebron has created a sophisticated curtailment solution. Curtailment refers to the practice of reducing the electricity inflow to balance the power grid. In other words, it involves adjusting the operation of, for example, a wind turbine in order to match the demand for electricity at any given time.
In the chart above, the green line indicates how much power a wind turbine can produce, the yellow line indicates how much was actually produced. Around 16:30 (4:30 PM) there was a thunderstorm with a lot of wind. To ensure that the energy grid remained in balance, a curtailment action was taken. After the storm, the turbine was put back to full power and the energy was generated again as expected.
“Our first goal for this project was to create a curtailment solution for our producers, which we were proud to achieve. We then turned to creating a more scalable and energy efficient solution. We needed a hardware device that was capable and available, but also a company behind it that was trustworthy and transparent about their delivery expectations. We achieved that by choosing the Factor 201 from OnLogic.”- Tim van Druenen, Platform Engineer at Vandebron.
Hardware requirements for an energy management gateway
The Vandebron team needed a hardware platform to replace the systems they had used to develop their curtailment solution. They had a number of core requirements for the device, including:
- Right-sized processing and efficiency - They had previously been using a NUC form factor system with an i7 processor, which far exceeded their actual computational needs.
- Low power usage to minimize ecological footprint
- At least two ethernet ports
- Preferably ARM CPU architecture
- Optional 4G or 5G connectivity
- An onboard SSD, rather than EMMC or SD-card-based memory
- A small physical footprint
- The ability to operate in challenging, outdoor environments
The OnLogic Factor 201 Industrial Raspberry Pi IoT Gateway matched their requirements perfectly.
“Our company’s mission is to achieve 100% sustainable energy as quickly as possible. That’s one of the reasons why we were so interested in an ARM-based platform like the Factor 201 that could provide the capabilities we needed without consuming a lot of power.”- Tim van Druenen, Platform Engineer at Vandebron.
The role of OnLogic's Industrial Raspberry Pi in energy curtailment
The Factor 201 is a compact industrial computer built around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 (CM4). In Vandebron's curtailment solutions, it serves as the gateway to the assets of their network of energy producers. It runs Kubernetes, on Amazon Web Services EC2, for container orchestration, a Wireguard Virtual Private Network (VPN) to ensure a secure connection to the devices, and a customized suite of services built for Talos OS (based on Yocto Linux) to manage the performance of the energy production equipment.
“If you need a small form factor gateway, OnLogic is basically the company to go to. Next to the good looks of the devices, you get everything you need from OnLogic to make your project a success, and it's great to see that part of their commitments to social responsibility includes ongoing sustainability efforts.”- Tim van Druenen, Platform Engineer at Vandebron.