How to make heating plants intelligent

E.distherm and othermo pilot in Branderburg

28. November 2019 Branderburg

Less than a year ago, Dennis Metz, CEO of othermo has joined the :agile accelerator – just months after winning the Startup Challenge of E.DIS. In less than a year, his startup did not manage to expand their business Germany-wide, but also set their first pilot with E.distherm.

othermo offers a solution to monitor, analyze and optimize the operation of heating plants and decentralized energy systems. Their control strategy takes into account the local demand and generation from renewable resources in order to identify and implement the most economic and ecologic way to operate the heating plant.

The founding idea behind othermo was based on the PhD thesis of Dennis Metz, who looked into dispatch strategies for distributed energy systems. He found out that there is significant optimization potential, when decentral power plants are operated in a forward-looking manner. However, despite the economic saving potential and interest in the market, initial evaluation showed that the market might just not yet be ready for Dennis´ forward-looking idea: most medium-scaled heating plants lacked the required connectivity, available optimization data was insufficient and existing subsidy-schemes were providing additional hurdles. Feedback from the market spun othermo business case and draw their focus towards creating connectivity for decentral energy systems and providing transparency over the operations across manufacturer sand technologies.

Currently othermo serves a number of companies across Germany. “We install a gateway in the heating plant, which connects to all the components using the communication interface,” explains Dennis Metz. “If a problem arises, our clients get informed by an e-mail or SMS. Through a web-based platform, they can then monitor the operations, remote control the set points and analyze the historical operations to identify inefficiencies and operational problems. Our platform allows them to reduce cost and improve the security of supply. In addition, instead of spending countless hours looking for problems and commuting to the heating plants, their engineers have more time to focus on their actual work.”

Since mid of this year, othermo works with E.distherm on a joint pilot project. Together they digitalize a small district heating network in the city of Brück, that has a thermal generation capacity of 1020 kW and consists of a cogeneration-unit as well as three boilers. "othermo was one of the 3 Winners of the E.dis Start-up Challenge 2018. The startup has supported us with new ideas, which could positively influence the costs and functionality of our Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system. These mostly included modern technology and approaches, such as control system with a cheaper and easier to program gateway rather than a classic PLC,," explains Erik Schmerse, project lead at E.distherm.

“In Brück we connected multiple peripheral components, such as pumps and gas, electricity, heat and water meters. Based on the LoRaWAN technology, we also added some of the meters installed in the supplied buildings,” Dennis Metz describes the pilot. "In the second stage of the pilot, we implemented a control system for the heating plant and more efficient control strategy for the pump. By controlling the pumps based on the supply situation at the last supplied client, the electric demand of the pumps was reduced by up to 50%. At the same time, the security of supply was increased during peak times."

"One of the biggest assets of othermo is their load prediction model and open interfaces of their software and hardware," Erik Schmerse says. "The latter is the reason why othermo could provide a highly adapted solution to digitalize the existing, very diverse power plant portfolio of the E.distherm. All these reasons combined make othermo somewhat unique."

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