Stäubli, Power-Blox form partnership to work on energy storage solutions

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Stäubli Electrical Connectors (formerly Multi-Contact), the pioneer and global market leader in electrical connectors for Photovoltaic solutions, and Power-Blox the award-winning Swiss start-up enter into a strategic partnership for innovative energy storage solutions.

With over 20 years of experience in the photovoltaic industry and more than 1 billion installed PV connector components, Stäubli Electrical Connectors provides more than 150 GW or 50% of the worldwide PV capacity. With the new technology called “Swarm Power”, developed by the Swiss start-up company Power-Blox and its intelligent energy cubes, an off-the-grid energy sup-ply can be produced without any technical know-how or configuration.

Power-Blox is the first modular solar energy system, which offers alternating current up to the megawatt range based on swarm technology. This revolutionary concept also allows for a completely mobile supply and functions as a portable outlet.

Power-Blox explains how it uses ‘swarm power’ to create intelligent autonomous energy grids

“The product and solution portfolio of Power-Blox fits very well into the strategic development of our ‘alternative energies’ business. Combined with our powerful and durable connector solutions for photovoltaic plants, these innovative systems and the swarm technology open up total-ly new fields of application in the growing market of energy storage systems”, says Franco Delvecchio, CEO of Stäubli Electrical Connectors and member of the Executive Committee of the Stäubli Group about the cooperation.

“Swarm Power” imitates complex systems by their nature to create fully autonomous and intelligent power grids all over the world. Anyone can create an independent, decentralized power supply grid without additional technical know-how. The “plug and play” solution consists of stand-alone energy cubes with an integrated battery, which can be expanded as desired, thus enabling a scalable power supply. Each cube can supply electricity which is independent of the grid and is supplied by external sources such as solar systems or wind energy. Typical applications include the supply of mobile or temporary installations for aid organizations, rural electrification in remote areas, military installations or as a reserve battery for bridging in power in the event of power outages in unstable public networks.

— Solar Builder magazine

Power-Blox explains how it uses ‘swarm power’ to create intelligent autonomous energy grids

The ‘Plug and Power’ technology behind Power-Blox enables anyone, anywhere in the world, to create an autonomous, decentralized, Swarm Grid to power schools, hospitals or an entire village without any management, configuration or maintenance, so says the Swiss startup.

Power-Blox does this by “mimicking complex systems in nature” using a concept it developed called Swarm Power.

What the?

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Swarm technology is based upon nature’s approach toward organizing complex structures in a fully decentralized way. In a swarm, the most complex systems are governed by a simple set of rules and that are acted upon without the need for centralized decision making. As the individual entities within the swarm follow this set of rules they interact with one another without knowledge of the swarm’s behavior, giving rise to an ‘intelligent’ global behavior for the entire system.

Power-Blox has taken this concept and applied it to a power grid. With Swarm Power, the power generation, storage and distribution are done with a fully decentralized architecture to manage fluctuating current, as opposed to a smart grid which needs a centralized architecture. The energy in the swarm is stored in nodes and every component of the grid learns how to adapt to the current state of the grid by observing the grid parameters and adapting its behavior with the use of artificial intelligence.

How does it scale?

The Power-Blox 200 series are individual, intelligent energy cubes with an integrated battery. Each cube provides 200 Watts of alternating current and can provide power for lighting, one refrigerator, a television and mobile phone / laptop charging. The cubes can be powered by an optionally provided solar unit or from any external source (such as solar, wind, hydrothermal, biomass, or a generator etc). Power-Blox acts as a universal energy interface and can be combined with any external energy source or storage device.

When a minimum of 2 Power-Blox are combined, proprietary algorithms enable the system to adapt and react with swarm intelligence, creating a Swarm Grid that can provide sustainable and regulated power for schools, hospitals, telecommunications infrastructure, agricultural equipment, remote tourist resorts, events / festivals, disaster relief, and up to entire villages and towns.

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The scalability of Power-Blox is essentially limitless due to the modular architecture of the system. Anyone can scale energy storage and production by simply incorporating additional units into the system as energy requirements increase. Additionally, the cubes are completely ‘Plug and Power’ and don’t require any special configuration, engineering, or expertise when adding additional modules to the system.

Compared with ‘Smart Grid’ technology, a Power-Blox Swarm Grid offers the same ‘smart distribution,’ load balancing, and energy management, but requires no centralized architecture, software or configuration. It is simply ‘plug and power.’

Power-Blox’s technology has not only the potential to change how off-grids are built and operated, but could change the way conventional power grids work too. As the amount of available renewable energy increases, the design of today’s public grids are failing to tap the full potential of renewable energy. Their approach could address the challenges of public grids in a fundamental way: On one hand, it removes the need for a centralized architecture and control; On the other hand, it provides power storage capabilities inside the grid, as well as in the ‘last mile of the grid.’

Power-Blox has been awarded the Axpo Energy Award 2014, the UN National Energy Globe Award of Tanzania 2015, and is a top 10 Finalist for the InterSolar 2017 Award next month in Munich. The company is based in Brugg, Switzerland, and recently completed their second investment round.

— Solar Builder magazine