May 20, 2024
Power Play: Energy Platform Adapts IronDome Tech To Optimise Grid
Source: Pexels

Going from development on Israel’s world famous Iron Dome missile defense system to maximizing energy usage might sound a little odd, but to Ron Halpern, chief commercial officer at mPrest, the software company behind the platform, the transition was a natural one.

“Iron Dome essentially is a real-time distributed asset optimisation system; the assets happened to be interceptors,” Halpern tells NoCamels.

mPrest used the principles behind Iron Dome to create the mDERMS energy management system (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Having developed the command and control system for Iron Dome, the 20-year-old, Petah Tikva-based company “went on an Internet of Things journey,” as Halpern puts it, and decided to apply the principles used to create the missile defense software to making electricity plants more efficient and sustainable. 

“Fundamentally, from an architectural perspective, we’re continuing to do the same thing,” he says.  “We do asset health management as performance management in the electric grid.”  

mPrest used its optimization technology to create a new distributed energy resource management system (DERMS). These systems are designed to maximize efficiency on a power grid through both the supplier (referred to in the industry as “front of the meter”) and the consumer (known as “behind the meter”). 

“We’re creating a single picture, a single view, a single process – the virtual process – and we’re analyzing that process and optimizing that process,” Halpern says. 

The company’s unique platform, known as mDERMS, manages all aspects of a power grid’s performance, integrating with existing software such as analytics and hardware such as sensors and providing a bottom-up image of the infrastructure for the operators and a detailed breakdown of their energy consumption for users. 

Illustrative: mDERMS presents a bottom-up presentation of a power grid’s performance (Unsplash)

mDERMS also integrates power from those users who supply the grid with clean energy they have themselves produced through wind, hydro or solar power on their property. These independent energy producers band together to form consortiums in order to sell a substantial amount of power to utility companies, rather than the negligible amounts they produce individually. 

These consortiums are known as virtual power plants (VPPs) and the power they provide supplements the grid, making it more sustainable. 

What sets mPrest apart, Halpern says, is its holistic AI-driven approach – merging the clean energy from the VPPs, optimization of resources and advanced storage capabilities to create what he calls “a dynamic and efficient energy ecosystem.” 

The main target function of the mDERMS is to ensure that from an operational perspective, everything is optimized, he explains. 

The software can put together a plan to dilute energy consumption across a longer period of time so that there is not a peak of demand at certain hours, such as when people come home from work. 

This is known as “peak shifting,” Halpern says, and also involves the utility company charging less at certain times in order to encourage more usage at those hours. 

Mass use of energy-heavy assets such as air conditioning units can put great stress on a power grid (Pexels)

“Everyone comes home in the summer and turns on their air conditioner, they want the house to be cold,” he says. 

“[But] instead of cooling the air conditioner at 6pm, let me start cooling at 5pm and then by 6pm it’ll be cold; I’ll turn it off or adjust the thermostat so that I won’t have a peak at 6pm when it’s inconvenient for the utility.”  

The same is true in winter, when water heaters go on as people arrive home and want to shower. By switching on heaters earlier in the day, people still have hot water but do not place such strain on the grid. 

And when the supplier is under high stress, mDERMS has the ability to tap into renewable power provided the VPPs, which is stored in batteries off the grid. 

In Israel, Halpern says, the government is promoting external power storage and VPPs – primarily based on solar power due to the country’s Mediterranean/desert climate, with long summers and mild winters.

mDERMS draws on renewable energy to alleviate pressure on a power grid in peak hours (Pexels)

mPrest has already worked with the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation to optimize its performance and recently signed an agreement with the EDF Renewables Israel, the local subsidiary of an international developer and operator of renewable power plants. 

But, Halpern says, the majority of its business is on the international level, where both the distribution and the VPP technology is in demand. 

Utility companies want grid stability and the ability to offer better services to their customers, he says, so they need a system such as mDERMS. 

“From a utility’s perspective, the main priority is to keep the lights on,” he says.