The introduction of the new mobile network standard 5G carries groundbreaking changes not only for the way people connect with each other – but also for the communication between machines. Therefore, various applications for 5G outside the mobile phone world exist. The new technology can for instance play an important role in the transforming energy sector.
5G as part of smart grid applications
The often-envisaged energy transition towards renewable energy sources requires that many small, decentralized and widely distributed power plants are being integrated into the existing infrastructure. This leads to a fundamental shift from a central, directed structure to a decentralized, cellular supply structure, which is regionally oriented and must provide a high degree of flexibility. Here, 5G will be an important element for the development of smart grid technologies, allowing the grid to better adapt to the dynamics of renewable energy and distributed generation. As renewable resources – such as solar and wind power – are intermittent, the grid will require integrated monitoring and control to steer differing energy flows and to withhold a standby capacity to supplement intermittent generation. Smart Grid capabilities will make it easier to control bi-directional power flows and monitor, control, and support these distributed resources.
Internet of Things in energy supply
In the future, it should be possible to use 5G to link virtually any number of machines via the Internet of Things (IoT). In this machine network, the devices communicate independently, without human intervention (M2M communication). The interlinked deployment of sensors, such as leak detectors on a pipeline for example, then allows continuous monitoring and strongly reduces the need for human intervention. Tasks such as metering, monitoring and automation can benefit greatly from IoT connectivity via 5G.
Thus, innovative solutions to facilitate the production, transmission, distribution and usage of energy are enabled by 5G and their potential is currently examined by several researchers.
German research project tests 5G for energy applications
A project initiated in Germany this year, the National 5G Energy Hub, tries to make 5G technology usable for communication with machines and between machine components. Through a public-private partnership between universities and companies, a 5G mobile standard is going to be made available for energy technology applications, and specifically for building energy technology.
The three-phased project runs over ten years. The first project phase starts this year and runs until the beginning of 2020. During this time, the basic techniques and software components for the use of 5G technology in the field of energy will be developed. The project partners look at the entire supply chain – from thermally-oriented building supply to the electrical distribution grid.
The second phase of the project, which runs from 2020 to 2024, focuses on the transfer of products and services. Here especially medium-sized companies are to be supported in their efforts in the digitization of products and services. In the subsequent field test phase from 2025 to 2028, further applications are to be processed with which tasks of the energy transition can be solved.
Based on the developed techniques, public bodies and companies should thus be able to offer new products and services in the energy sector directly after the planned introduction of the 5G standard in 2020.