As part of the international EEBUS Initiative, reputable manufacturers have joined forces to develop a uniform communication standard for all household electrical devices so that, in the future, energy consumption can be coordinated in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner. We have spoken to Frank Blessing, who sits on the board of this initiative, about the successes and challenges as well as what drives him personally to get engaged with this issue.


EEBUS as an international, uniform communication standard.

EEBUS as an international, uniform communication standard.

The goal of the EEBUS initiative is to develop a uniform communication standard for energy. How important it is to get all the players around the same table? 

When it comes to introducing new communication standards, partners are essential because overarching content and working applications can only be defined if all the parties involved work together. A standard cannot work without this cooperation. The EEBUS initiative offers companies the possibility of networking and exchanging ideas. Particularly in the context of the networking of intelligent appliances – both producers and consumers – this is becoming increasingly important. Leading companies in the energy industry have recognized this and are using networking to develop new application scenarios. They understand how important it is to work together so that they can offer their customers interesting, cross-industry solutions.

What can you say about the current status?

Especially in the past two years, we have seen great progress and achieved a number of milestones as pioneers in solutions that connect electricity, heat and transport. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) has joined the EEBUS initiative and the first Plugfest for the integration of electric vehicles was a success. The leading manufacturers of heating systems, including Vaillant, Viessmann and Wolf Heiztechnik are also working intensively on implementing heating applications with the EEBUS standard and are already nearing production launches. Furthermore, together with SMA, BSH has created the first application for connecting household appliances (washing machines) and put it into production.

These examples show that EEBUS is no longer just a theory – it is now ready for the market. The short implementation periods for new applications are fantastic and the great cooperation between the companies involved in the EEBUS initiative is to thank for this.

What comes next? 

For 2017, the focus is on the integration of heating systems, such as heat pumps, in intelligent energy management. By the end of the year, it is expected that the first series production systems from various manufacturers will be able to communicate via EEBUS and be considered, for example, for the optimization of self-consumption. This will be followed by applications for the integration of electric vehicles in the utility grid. With regard to securing grid stability, the promotion of electric vehicles will involve great challenges, but it will also bring about opportunities and added value.

The SMA Sunny Home Manager 2.0 controls the energy flows of household generators and consumers.

The SMA Sunny Home Manager 2.0 controls the energy flows of household generators and consumers.

How is SMA contributing? 

As a founding member, SMA is a major driver of applications in the field of intelligent energy management in EEBUS and is involved in all the applications mentioned above with regard to energy management. With Sunny Home Manager 2.0 and the SMA Data Manager M, SMA has demonstrated that solutions for connecting the electricity, heat and transport sectors are already entering the market. The standardized integration of electric vehicles in energy management is a major success in the promotion and acceptance of e-mobility and a decisive step toward an all-electric society.

Which application are you personally most excited about?

Personally, I find the thought very exciting of, in the future, being able to use the energy from my electric car bidirectionally, to open up a whole host of new applications. Surplus energy from the utility grid can then, for example, be buffered in mobile storage systems and short-term energy demand can be covered by precisely these storage systems. Strictly speaking, we will not just be talking about individual applications in the future. With the trend toward an all-electric society, there is an increasing focus on interconnecting all generators and consumers, giving rise to an entire ecosystem.

Many thanks for this interview, Frank.


Frank Blessing is Senior Business Development Manager Energy Services at SMA. Since May 2017, he has been a member of the managemnt board of the EEBUS initiative.

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July 26, 2017

A woman and a man stand next to a piece of equipment in a laboratory setting.

NREL researchers Katherine Brown and Paul King stand next to an anaerobic glove box used to keep sensitive samples in an air-free environment. They demonstrated that cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanocrystals can be used to harvest light, turning the energy from that light into electrons with sufficient potential to propel the reduction of N2 into ammonia, which takes place within the nitrogenase molybdenum iron (MoFe) protein. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

Paul King and Katherine Brown wanted answers. To produce ammonia from nitrogen, could they use a biomolecular reaction similar to one that boosts the production of hydrogen from water?

"That was the genesis of the idea," said King, who works in the Biosciences Center at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The answer, they discovered, didn't come as easily as the work with hydrogen, but it proved possible with algae—and their new method could become a viable alternative to the century-old, energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process.

Secret Rests with What Algae Can Do

Green algae absorb sunlight and use that energy to generate carbon and hydrogen. NREL scientists had already found that, by replacing the algae's normal hydrogen-producing enzyme—called hydrogenase—with a ferredoxin and hydrogenase fusion protein, they could trigger the algae to increase hydrogen production.

But what works for one biochemical reaction may not work for another. Compared to the tight bond between nitrogen molecules, hydrogen molecules are relatively easy to separate. Researchers needed greater understanding of nitrogenases—enzymes that direct the conversion of nitrogen to ammonia—before they could begin to work on a renewable method for ammonia production.

Manufacturers produce about 150 million metric tons of ammonia from nitrogen globally each year, with the vast majority used to make fertilizer. Nitrogen itself is plentiful, making up more than three quarters of the planet's atmosphere—but converting that nitrogen to ammonia requires a vast output of energy. As much as 1% of the world's electricity and about 4% of its natural gas powers the Haber-Bosch process annually. Named for the German chemist who developed the method (and for another who helped scale it up for industrial use), the process has remained the standard for producing ammonia since the days of World War I.

Because so much natural gas is required, domestic ammonia production is dominated by three states where the resource is plentiful. Converting nitrogen to ammonia using the process developed at NREL would help to decentralize the industry while reducing both costs and use of fossil fuels.

But nitrogenases still require a large amount of chemical energy that comes from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules. NREL solved this problem by replacing ATP with sunlight, captured by nanocrystals of cadmium sulfide (CdS). The solar rays power a catalytic reaction within the enzyme, allowing it to break apart the nitrogen bonds and create ammonia.

Photo shows a gloved hand holding a solution containing nanocrystals.

Cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles dissolved in water. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

Research into Hydrogen Proved Beneficial

Last year, the journal Science published a paper outlining the research conducted at NREL by King and Brown, along with colleagues at Montana State University, University of Colorado, and Utah State University. The team determined the nanocrystals produced 63% as much ammonia as the system powered by ATP.

King, who holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology, and Brown, who earned a doctorate in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, had already collaborated on the study that used CdS nanocrystals to produce hydrogen. That research demonstrated the need for a sacrificial electron donor to regenerate the nanoparticle after giving an electron to the enzyme, which allows the nanoparticle to repeatedly serve as a catalyst for the chemical reaction. The new ammonia study builds upon this earlier research.

"We've done a lot of work to understand how the hydrogenase interacts with the nanoparticle and we were able to translate a lot of that knowledge to the nitrogenases," Brown said. "Between the two of us, we've been able to understand how nanoparticles and enzymes generally react."

According to Brown, nitrogenase has a number of functions. "In addition to reducing nitrogen, it can also make hydrogen," she said. "It can also take acetylene and make ethylene, and we looked at that. We worked our way up to nitrogen reduction, optimizing at each step, and took this systematic approach instead of trying to hit the bullseye for nitrogen right away. We built up slowly to a system that looked like it would work for nitrogen."

University collaborations drove the science forward. Brown spent a week at the Utah campus where she studied enzymes and made repeated trips to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado where associate professor Gordana Dukovic shared her expertise in CdS nanocrystals.

"My favorite aspect of this project is that it's so interdisciplinary," Brown said. "It's inspiring to be working with people from multiple disciplines with multiple points of view and approaches to problems. I think that is fundamental to our success and will continue to drive future success. That's where science needs to be going because none of us can be experts in all of it."

Illustration shows the approach NREL developed to harvest light to produce ammonia.

NREL's biohybrid approach harvests light to produce electrons (e–) to drive the dinitrogen (N2) reduction reaction for generating ammonia (NH3). Illustration by Al Hicks

Illustration shows the approach NREL developed to harvest light to produce ammonia.

NREL's biohybrid approach harvests light to produce electrons (e–) to drive the dinitrogen (N2) reduction reaction for generating ammonia (NH3). Illustration by Al Hicks

Where NREL Research Could Lead

The research marks the first step in a longer process. Brown said building a device that uses light-driven enzymes to make ammonia would not be the best idea. The enzymes, she said, "are labor-intensive to make and to isolate. Ideally, you would want some kind of artificial catalyst that is based on what we understand about the enzyme. That's the value of this work."

Building a Haber-Bosch plant can be expensive, and having to produce ammonia in one facility and ship it to where it's needed adds to the cost. King envisions the NREL process being useful in places such as Africa, where the continent has a growing agricultural economy but lacks the water and natural gas resources that North America has. With those limitations in mind, ammonia could be produced where it's needed using the method King and Brown pioneered.

"You might conceptualize the process, not as a replacement for Haber-Bosch, but as fitting a niche need in terms of agricultural systems," King said.

Learn more about NREL's bioenergy research.

— Wayne Hicks

If you want to use your own monitoring, Scada or data logging system to manage operation of your PV system, you can simply integrate the inverters via the Modbus interface. For more than two years, SMA has been equipping all inverters with this standard interface, offering straightforward solutions to third providers, in particular, who want to provide system operators with their own, non-SMA system.

SMA employee Falko Schmidt answered all questions on Modbus

Falko Schmidt gathered and answered all questions on Modbus asked by coustomers

SMA employee Falko Schmidt has set himself the task of gathering and answering those questions on Modbus most frequently asked by customers.

And to make the approximately 30 questions and respective answers already gathered available to those who have similar questions on Modbus, Falko summarized them in a detailed FAQ catalog. This catalog is available at SMA Developer, a website for developers where all development documentation of SMA products can be found.

Have fun browsing the blog.

Have a look at the SMA Developer (please select “FAQ Modbus”)

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Organisations around the world are teaming up to help rural communities gain access to basic energy needs through renewables

In Majhuee, a village nestled in central Nepal, Raj Mani Chaudhary and his wife depend on fish and vegetable farming for their income. The couple used to spend NPR 2500 (USD 24) per month to operate and maintain a diesel pump for their farm, but as their pump got older, so did the cost and frequency of its repairs. Slowly this was becoming unsustainable and something had to change.

Change meant turning to solar power.

“We’ve saved a lot of money on fuel by switching to solar,” says Raj about installing a solar pump for his farm. “Our costs on diesel have been reduced by over 75 per cent, so we now have more money to do other things.”

The solar pump’s steady flow of water throughout the day has been enough to maintain the Chaudharys’ two fishponds and water their 675 square meters of farmland.

“I now only need to use the diesel pump during extremely cloudy days,” Raj says. The automatic operation of the solar pump also means Raj no longer has to travel to the field twice a day to operate the pump — the automatic pump starts early in the morning and stops in the evening on clear days, maintaining the water level of his fish ponds and freeing his time for other activities.

Raj ManiRaj Mani Chaudhary’s solar pump installation in Nepal.

IRENA’s work on solar pumping solutions shows that they are reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable in rural areas — evident in the Chaudharys’ case, where a solar solution has improved their livelihoods and reduced their use of fossil fuels. In IRENA’s Solar Pumping for Irrigation publication, renewable energy opportunities in the agriculture and water sector are shown to be one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and stimulate socio-economic development. A study from UNEP shows that in Asia, for every 10 per cent increase in farm yield there is an estimated 5 per cent reduction in poverty.

Women in agriculture

Sarita Regmi and her husband wash their cows using water from a solar pump.Since installing a solar pump, the Regmi’s milk production has increased by 20 per cent, and they can comfortably wash their livestock and keep their farm hygienic.

In the agricultural sector of developing countries, men and women take different roles, and fetching water is a burden predominantly on women. In Mazuru, Zimbabwe, for example, women walk about four kilometres a day carrying buckets of water from the dam — leaving little time for household chores, hoeing, weeding, tending to plants, and other essential work. With rising fuel costs and frequent maintenance, the upkeep of diesel pumps is not affordable for many families.

In Ayodhyapure, in southern Nepal, Sarita Regmi and her husband rely on their livestock for income. Every day, Sarita delivers on average 70 litres of milk to the local milk collection centre, relying on a hand pump to feed and clean their 11 cows. Hand pumps are a common method for water delivery for the majority of farmers in the area, but operating a hand pump is physically intense and consumes a significant amount of time to pump water and carry it to the farm. Sarita was spending two to three hours daily on pumping water by hand, this left her physically tired and limited her time to do other tasks.

Sarita Regmi 1Sarita Regmi’s husband with their cattle

To ease this burden and free-up Sarita’s time, she and her husband installed a solar pump. Since the installation, milk production from their cattle increased by 20 per cent, and the water output of the pump comfortably fulfills their water needs, and allows them to wash their livestock and keep the farm hygienic.

“We used to rely on hand pumps and invested a lot of effort drawing water for our livestock. Now with the solar pump, I just have to turn on the switch,” says Sarita. Feeding and washing her cattle now takes Sarita only 30 minutes, compared to two hours with a hand pump.

In addition to making Sarita’s life easier, after just four months the Regmis have seen the health of their livestock improve — newborn calves are healthier and less prone to infections, and the milk production from their cows has increased from 10 to 12 litres per day per animal and is more consistent. By collecting the water used to wash their cattle shed and channelling it to their fish farm, the family has found another way to utilise renewables to improve their lives.

Real economic and quality of life improvements are possible with renewable energy technologies, according to another IRENA report, as they provide water security accessibility, affordability, and safety.

Solar-pumps are particularly useful and cost-effective for crops traditionally grown by women like fruits and vegetables, which feeds families and ultimately improves their nutrition and health.

Sarita Regmi 2Solar installation at Sarita Regmi’s home

Both the Chaudharys and Regmis received their solar-pumps after signing up for SunFarmer’s rural Nepal promotion. They also received an incentive on the system cost, provided by Winrock International and Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihoods. Solar-based pumping solutions are a good example of how renewables can offer a cost-effective alternative to grid- or diesel-based irrigation pump sets.


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