By using our electricity grids smarter, we can reduce the environmental impact and achieve more production of renewable electricity faster. The key is more flexibility, such as producing less electricity when it is windiest.
It may sound strange to produce less electricity from our wind turbines when it is windiest. Electricity prices have skyrocketed, and the solution ought to be to produce as much electricity as possible, right?
“Technology is a limit; we cannot produce more electricity than the electricity grid can handle. To cope with the few days every year when the conditions for electricity production are most favorable and consumption is minimal, we would have to expand the capacity of the electricity grid enormously”, says Emil Hillberg, project manager of a recently completed project that has developed solutions and models for flexible control of electricity production.
More facilities can be built, which creates the conditions for more electricity production even when there is less wind.
Before new production facilities for solar and wind power can be put into use, the electricity grid needs to be expanded to cope with the high peaks in electricity transfer, peaks that may only occur a few times a year. The rest of the time the grid has free capacity for increased production. The construction of new power lines has a negative impact on the climate and the environment and is often associated with long permit processes and construction times.
“The solutions that we have developed in the project can be used to control the electricity production based on the capacity of the electricity grid. By reducing the production when it is most windy, we can start production using the existing electricity grid instead of waiting for ten years for new power lines to be built. This means that more facilities can be built, which creates the conditions for more electricity production even when there is less wind. The result is more renewable electricity produced overall”, says Emil Hillberg.
The project has tested the solutions on a smaller scale in Hungary and in northern Öland.
“There are many wind parks on Öland already, but the electricity grid cannot cope when new facilities produce at max capacity. The flexibility solutions we have developed could enable new facilities to be established using the existing electricity grid”, says Emil Hillberg.
Flexibility in the production of electricity is important, but there is also room for more flexibility in the consumption of electricity which can help us make smarter use of our electricity grids.
“We have seen a large increase in the interest for flexible electricity consumption since the project started in 2019, such as heating the house or charging the car when prices are lower. Although the focus of our project was on the production side, these solutions and models can also be applied to the consumption side. We have a large capacity in our electricity grids today, but it is important that we smoothen the utilisation so that we can manage that capacity more efficiently”, says Emil Hillberg.
The project has developed methods for active control of local energy systems, business models for decision-making for market participants and a toolbox to support the planning and operation of distribution systems. RISE has coordinated the project, which consisted of several partners: Borgholm Municipality, E.ON, Lund University, Lumenaza and RWTH Aachen University.