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Real-time distribution grid monitoring and automated fault management system

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SynchroGuard (Real-time distribution grid monitoring and automated fault management system)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2018-04-30

The ambitious but necessary gas emission reduction goals set by the European Commission require significant investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electrical grid infrastructure. Nowadays, electrical utilities need to upgrade the level of monitoring and automation of distribution grids in order to cope with the unpredictability of renewable energies and the stringent power-quality requirements imposed by regulators. For example, phenomena like overloads and overvoltages are becoming more frequent due to renewable generation, stressing grid components and threatening grid efficiency and reliability; in addition to this, regulatory authorities require to decrease the duration of power outages in order to improve grid reliability indexes.

Existing smart grid solutions are characterized by several common drawbacks: they need a multitude of devices to perform each task, require both current and voltage sensors to get a view of the grid status (voltage sensors are expensive and cumbersome to deploy), and lack accurate fault location.

In order to address these challenges and overcome the above mentioned drawbacks, Zaphiro Technologies has developed an innovative solution for the smart management of electrical distribution grids called SynchroGuard. To increase grid efficiency and reliability, SynchroGuard provides real-time visibility of the grid status, enables safe integration of renewable energies, and quickly reacts to electrical faults. It consists of distributed sensing and a central grid controller that collects all the measurements and performs real-time grid monitoring, automatic control of renewable energy generators, and smart fault management. The main novelty of Zaphiro’s approach is the use of synchrophasors, that are very frequent and synchronized measurements of voltage and electric current, enabling accurate fault location and simple installation. Zaphiro’s team has exploited its unique expertise in smart grids to rethink the synchrophasor’s concept, used only in niche application in transmission grids, for distribution grid management.
Within our SME Instrument Phase I proposal, we identified several key activities required to address our upcoming commercialization phase. In what follows we report, for every activity, the most relevant results achieved.

Market analysis
- Improve market analysis in Europe, APAC and USA: We improved our market segmentation and competition analysis and better identified our customer needs by attending several branch events (e.g. European Utility Week, Iberdrola - SME instrument day, etc.) and talking with representatives of about 25 different utilities.
- Refine pricing model and validate customer willingness to pay: We have validated the willingness to pay of our clients for pilot projects, as we have started two small pilots in early 2018.
- Develop go-to market strategy: We were selected for the ABB acceleration program Unlock Your Ability and we received from ABB many valuable information that improved our market understanding and allow to refine our go-to-market strategy.

Technical analysis
- Analyse standardization requirements for data exchange and cybersecurity: We identified the main standards for data exchange in power systems as well as those related to cybersecurity, a necessary aspect to consider when addressing large scale roll-outs.
- Evaluate the possibility of redesigning the SynchroSense hardware: We understood that SynchroSense hardware redesign is a non-negligible effort and we are exploring the possibility of using the current hardware platform for both pilot projects and large-scale deployments.

IP right analysis
- Validate proposed IP right strategy: we have refined our IP strategy and we paved the path for new inventions to be added to our portfolio.
- Improve Freedom To Operate (FTO) analysis: We have carried out an assisted patent search with a specialist at the SFIIP (Swiss Federal Institute of IP) that highlighted that we are currently not infringing any patent.
During our SME Instrument Phase I, we have gathered sufficient elements demonstrating that our SynchroGuard solution is filling a relevant gap in a market (smart grid) which is growing extremely fast but lacking of a comprehensive solution for distribution grid monitoring and automation which can be retrofitted easily in the existing grid infrastructure. For this reason, we have decided to keep on developing our business idea by following the various tracks identified in this feasibility study.

The work carried out during Phase 1 has also been fundamental to clarify many aspects related to our go-to-market strategy. In particular, we identified the markets to target first, we understood the important role of partnerships, and we planned the team growth. Our project plan is to make SynchroGuard the core product offered by Zaphiro Technologies in the next 10 years and grow the company up to 14 Million of revenues in 2023 and employing 43 FTE.
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