Bangchak Corporation Public Co. Limited (BCP), a petroleum refiner in Thailand, is testing and demonstrating a commercial microgrid and blockchain energy trading platform at a community shopping mall anchored by a BCP fuel station in Bangkok.
Combining 280.9 kW of commercial rooftop and canopy solar photovoltaics (PV), 913 kWh of lithium-ion, nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide (NMC) and 92 kWh of lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4) battery energy storage capacity, the microgrid power generation and distribution platform is designed to meet the typical electricity needs of the Bangchak gas station. It also will generate, store and distribute surplus energy to community shopping mall tenants 24x7x365, according to Leonics, which designed and implemented the system.
Called Green Community Energy Management System (GEMS), BCP’s platform incorporates an Ethereum-based blockchain. The project serves as “an experimental sandbox system” for a microgrid system that Bangchak may deploy across its network of gas stations and commercial properties, Leonics’ Managing Director Wuthipong Suponthana explained in an interview.
“Our customer, Bangcheck Petroleum Co., wants their people to gain know-how regarding the design and implementation of microgrid systems, as well as know-how regarding the operation of microgrids as a business. Energy storage systems’ costs are coming down, and they want to be ready to implement these systems,” Suponthana told Microgrid Knowledge.
The commercial microgrid is physically isolated from the Bangkok Metropolitan Electricity Authority’s utility grid but able to operate in tandem with it. GEMS “will supply solar energy with storage to BCP’s station as the highest priority load and manage other customers to use utility power when GEMS’ controller determines that solar energy is not sufficient to supply the whole community. GEMS can use utility power to supply BCP’s station when there is not sufficient solar energy in system,” Suponthana said.
GEMS’ microgrid customers currently pay the Thai baht equivalent of $0.14/kWh for utility-grid electricity consumed from 09:00-22:00 and $0.085/kWh for that consumed from 22:01-08:59, according to Suponthana. In addition to reducing carbon emissions and air pollution (a cause of significant public health and government concern in Bangkok and across Thailand), GEMS customers stand to save on energy bills and enhance energy security and resilience.
The GEMS controller will broadcast energy offer, or sale, prices based on the cost of surplus PV electricity produced and distributed through the microgrid, “which may be $0.129/kWh,” Suponthana said. Using GEMS’ mobile or Web apps, consumers enter bids to buy energy at their preferred price points.
GEMS’ controller will continuously transact and dispatch electricity to consumers at the highest current bid price. The system will maintain consumer bids at the most recent price they set until they change them, which they can do at any time, Suponthana continued. “If they do not want to buy energy from GEMS, they can buy from the utility at the $0.14/kWh rate,” he said.
Leonics’ microgrid controller
Leonics’ GEMS microgrid system controller and LG’s 913-kWh battery energy storage system (BESS) serve as the core of the GEMS platform. A 125-kW PV inverter, a 200-kW battery inverter and 200-kW rectifier are located alongside and connected to them, all at a distance of 300-plus meters from microgrid customers and loads, Suponthana explained.
The 222.90-kW carport PV canopy is the microgrid’s main source of power generation. In addition, a 26.09-kW PV testing system that consists of a mix of monocrystalline silicon PV and PERC solar modules and inverters from various manufacturers serve as generation resources for the microgrid demonstration and test.
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Equipped with a 19.20-kW canopy PV system and 92-kWh of LiFePO4 battery energy storage capacity, the Bangchak gas station also serves as an energy producer for the microgrid. With the need for continuous, high-quality electricity to power fuel pumps, an office and associated DC lighting, the gas station also serves as a source of permanent load for the microgrid.
The SPAR convenience store’s roof is outfitted with a 12-kW rooftop PV system, as well. In addition to SPAR, a Muay Thai gymnasium, two restaurants and one, as yet unoccupied, commercial building are sources of switchable loads for GEMS.
An uncertain energy policy and market environment
More solar power capacity has been installed in Thailand than any of the other nine members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), according to the latest, publicly available data from International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Thailand’s Ministry of Energy, in partnership with the country’s three state-run power utilities, has been researching distributed renewable energy and microgrid systems that make use of open energy trading platforms. The platforms provide a variety of third parties, households and businesses as well as independent power producers, access to utility grids, Suponthana explained.
Uncertainty regarding the energy policy and power market environment in Thailand has been elevated since the military ousted then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and took over the government in 2014. The first general election since then is scheduled to take place this month.
“The Ministry of Energy would like to create one national energy trading platform whereby many energy trading platform from private companies could be connected,” he said. “We expect the government will promote private microgrids and allow private energy trading activities, but I do not know when that will happen. This policy may change or it may not as a result of the election. We do not know yet.”
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