IREN2 research project
A microgrid as an island grid and topological power plant
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IREN2 research project
A microgrid as an island grid and topological power plant
The portion of renewable sources in energy supply is growing worldwide. Its expansion depends on economic, political, and technical factors. The long-term intent should be to reduce the amount of fossil fuel energy sources, most of which are centralized. Renewable energy systems – mostly decentralized – are expected to meet demands while maintaining a high level of supply reliability and profitability.
That’s why the IREN2 research project in Wildpoldsried, located in Bavaria’s Allgäu region, is studying innovative grid structures that predominantly feature distributed generation. The project is funded by Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
The IREN2 research project
July 2014 to June 2017. Three years have been scheduled for the implementation of the first microgrid test outside the laboratory, the first of its kind. The goal is for the Wildpoldsried grid to continue to function independently when disconnected from the main grid. A further objective is to demonstrate that the renewable energy producers bundled in the microgrid can temporarily replace conventional power plants by providing ancillary services from the distribution grid.
The test grid in Wildpoldsried is being designed to function as a self-contained regional microgrid. This requires the following equipment:
The equipment in the microgrid needs to be capable of ensuring grid stability at all times – especially when it comes to fluctuating infeed from solar and wind power plants. A control system maintains the balance between generation and consumption; and it is this balance that makes independent operation possible, enabling the distributed equipment – in addition to their normal operation – to supply agreed-upon ancillary services to the higher-level supply grid.
The microgrid as an island grid and as a topological power plant will be closely examined from both economic and technical perspectives over the course of the project.
In this project, Siemens is relying on existing and proven products and solutions, and will demonstrate that IREN2’s research goals can be met using resources available today.
For IREN2, we are collaborating with four research and industry partners:
The developments and tests that are occurring in the IREN2 project demonstrate that distributed power generation from renewable resources has potential. It has the potential to supply far more energy than is currently being used. It also has the potential to take over the task of system stabilization from conventional power plants. This shows that renewable generation can significantly reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. And it has the potential to pay off in the long run – for grid operators, producers, and investors.
Renewable energy sources that are intelligently combined and controlled – as they are in the Wildpoldsried microgrid – have what it takes to independently supply energy to entire regions while ensuring the highest level of supply reliability.
Battery storage, diesel generators, load bank, circuit breakers, converters, communication and information technology, control center: By the end of 2015, the Wildpoldsried grid will be equipped with everything it needs, including commissioning and initial field tests of all components.
No field testing without simulation: Before the residential power supply in the test area is actually affected, all possible scenarios will be precisely simulated. This ensures that everything can proceed as planned.
For autonomous island operation, the microgrid must achieve the following:
During testing of the island grid, the behavior of the microgrid is examined in detail: How do regulatory procedures work during autarkic, dynamic operation? How does the grid behave after a short circuit? Where are the system-related limits? These questions can be answered once the microgrid is disconnected. This test will also show if the black start is successful, or in other words the grid will be restored “from below” and will re-synchronize upon reconnection.
In addition to internal stability, the Wildpoldsried microgrid is expected to provide services that will ensure system stability in the higher-level grid. This means that the conventional plants do not need to run continuously – the existing green energy plants temporarily assume control. Control technology can predict, intelligently plan, and control the green plants’ performance so that diesel generators only need to be used in exceptional situations.
As a topological power plant, the Wildpoldsried microgrid will deliver the following system services:
Siemens reviews the project together with its consortium partners: What went well? Did more development requirements emerge, and if so, in what areas? How can the achievements from IREN2 be used in other applications? Comprehensive reports and assessments will supply the answers.
The global significance
Renewable energy is becoming more affordable for a growing number of people. For years, the levelized costs of electricity from wind and solar power have been decreasing, and technologies are developing rapidly. Renewables already account for 19 percent of the world’s overall energy consumption, and the trend is growing.
Functional stand-alone grids for greater independence
In emerging and developing countries, on islands, in remote regions with no stable supply grid, and even in large industrial companies: In many areas, microgrid solutions like the ones we’re testing in Wildpoldsried will improve our power supply in the future. They will provide an economical energy supply and promote independence from fossil energy sources.
Topological power plants to replace conventional power plants
In many areas, distributed equipment can be interconnected to form topological power plants. In the future, they will ensure that fewer conventional large-scale power plants will be necessary to ensure stability in our supply grids. That means greater profitability for small and medium-sized operators, improved flexibility of supply, and even greater opportunities for renewables.
Guaranteed cost-effectiveness of the projects
The research work in the IREN2 project shows that all this is possible at a predictable cost. The project proves that in many applications, excessive investments are not needed in the areas of storage and grid expansion in order to shape the energy supply of the future.
The transition to a new energy mix in Germany
Within just five years, the share of renewable energy sources in Germany’s net electricity production increased from eight to 25 percent.
The dilemma in Germany is that the grids are not equipped to handle the growing share of renewables. A comprehensive control of supply and demand and more storage capacity are complex and expensive to implement.
But there are ways around these problems. The controls for generation units are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Thanks to intelligent pooling, numerous small, widely distributed, and independent photovoltaic installations and privately owned wind turbines are already offering active power on the market similar to a conventional large-scale power plant.
But the share of green electricity can only increase if all the functions of a topological power plant are included: in other words, a continuous supply of reactive power and short-circuit power and measures that stabilize frequency and voltage. With these features, it becomes economical over the long term to intelligently use new and existing distributed energy producers. It will hardly be feasible any longer to operate conventional power plants for the sake of system stabilization alone, and this in turn will continue to drive the advance of renewable energy producers.
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