• Danny Champion

Q&A: The Innovation Lab

With Michael Strathmann

How does the team at Origami make sure we're giving green energy operators the state-of-the-art trading and automation systems they really need?

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.

Senior Systems Integration Engineer Michael Strathmann describes exactly how our industry-leading innovation laboratory helps us tackle some of the sector’s biggest challenges. Thanks for your time, Michael. What is the Origami innovation lab?


We unveiled the innovation lab at our technology centre in Cambridge a few years ago in 2019. The lab does two main things. First, it's a staging area where we test our own hardware and software products. Second, it's a customer-facing exhibition space where we demonstrate our services to some of the industry's most prestigious actors.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.

How did you pursue innovation previously?


Our first lab was built in a nearby village called Waterbeach in a big industrial unit and it was functional but it wasn't ideal to showcase what we do. It had big roller-shutter doors, bare concrete and a control room at mezzanine level. Now we have a clean, presentable lab with graphics on the front of the main cabinets which show exactly what's happening in a simple and bright space. LED displays on the floor represent power flows inside the lab itself. The LED displays help to visibly demonstrate what’s going on between the different hardware stations and makes for a very clear presentation.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.

Let’s get into the detail. What do you have in the lab?


The lab is basically what we call a ‘grid simulator’ so it’s an off-grid simulation of what happens in the UK's electricity network. The cabinets at the back of the lab are the main grid simulator and we treat them like the supplier's network. The grid simulator has five assets connected to it, all of which are active on our platform.


This means that we can monitor the power on our grid, we can monitor what's happening with the connected assets and we can control them. Also because it’s our own off-grid network, we can change the frequency of the grid and perform valuable experimental analysis.


Why is it beneficial being able to change the frequency?


The UK grid runs at 50 Hertz and one of the things that Origami does is provide access to services which help balance the grid frequency. Changing the frequency in the lab means that we can simulate frequency events that we might actually see on the National Grid. This lets us observe how assets behave or how different services can be utilised.


The other point to make here is that the assets in the lab are real industrial assets. We use distribution panels that you might find in a real substation and our generator uses a solar inverter, there are tens of thousands of these types of inverters in solar farms, and the load banks are real industrial units. We also have a battery that’s a customised grid-scale battery system, so we can do storage modelling too.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.

How do you mean 'customised'?


What we mean is that we have a grid scale battery that's scaled for our lab and we can make that asset behave as if it’s any other kind of storage asset. For example, we can mimic the behaviour of pumped hydro if we trickle-charge the battery and then export the energy on demand.


This helps us to match real-world asset owner scenarios and means that we can visually explain to customers exactly how our system can help them optimise, not just look at it conceptually or on paper, but simulate real commercial scenarios.


So you can set up scenarios relevant to particular customers?


Precisely. We recently secured an agreement with Gresham House and it was very useful to be able to show them around our innovation lab and replicate what was happening at their sites. We can configure the lab to be very close to their sites, so we could actually prove (in real-time) that we could develop a solution for their needs. This helps us enormously with our planning, and also to demonstrate potential new revenue streams to network operators.


It’s a real step change from going into a meeting and talking about ideas. Yes, it is possible to do that from behind a desk or on a computer screen but if you’ve got an asset manager in that room or somebody who knows a bit about the technology, then it's really helpful to be able to show them exactly what we can do. When they see it happening, they often turn to their colleagues and say something like: "I trust these guys. They are capable of doing what they say." because they've just seen it happening.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.

Do you think this helps set Origami apart?


I believe it does. Five years ago our lab was the first of its kind and there are still very few other facilities that allow the level of control and flexibility that we have here. It’s a brilliant resource and we love to shout about it, so if you think this could help with your assets then we’d love to show you around.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.


 

Proud to Welcome VIP Guests


Origami CEO and Founder Peter Bance was pleased to welcome Barclays Group Finance Director Anna Cross to our Technology Centre in Cambridge recently. As the leading independent provider of energy SaaS, we were keen to demonstrate exactly how we’re enabling the owners and operators of green energy assets to harness the power of real-time data. Technology is a critical enabler to help accelerate the shift to a green energy world.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.

Origami is on a mission to help build a green energy world powered by smart technology. Origami is the leading independent energy data platform, providing advanced SaaS applications for asset owner-operators, energy services companies, and route-to-market providers, to help manage and commercialise growing portfolios of green energy assets.