“Why are we knitting the Designetz grid? Because we have to reconcile more and more distributed power producers and fluctuating infeed to the system – by a smart, efficient grid ensuring the successful outcome of the energy transition.”
Lothar Ahle manages our Designetz project
innogy ensures efficient and economically viable supplies with smart power grids, laying the foundation for sustainable climate protection.
The share of the world’s energy that comes from renewable energy sources is rapidly growing. This has the potential to revolutionise the German power grid. innogy already relies on feed-in from over 300,000 power plants that use renewable energy sources for its distribution grid in Germany. This distributed mode of power generation poses a challenge for the grid since these systems today already generate more electricity than needed at certain times of the day. When the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, however, they only meet a few percent of demand. This is why it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the balance between power generation and consumption.
The grid must be able to meet these new challenges. We have been working from the outset to make the grid fit for the transformation of our energy system. This requires a proper integration of rural power generation and urban consumption. Most of the renewable energy comes from rural regions. This is because there is significantly more room than in cities for renewable power plants. Around 80 percent of the green electricity in Germany is produced in rural regions. This is why energy storage and consumption management – that is, the process of aligning consumption with the available power supply – is becoming increasingly important.
The Smart Grid forms the basis for meeting these new requirements. It makes it possible to connect and manage all the components we need for the challenges of the future. The Smart Grid makes the large amount of energy produced on sunny or windy days available for direct consumption or transfers it to storage systems for later use. It connects new power consumers, such as electric cars, to the system and uses them as potential energy storage systems. In so doing, the smart grid responds to changes in a flexible manner.
This is because it knows what requirements it needs to meet at all times. Sensors at crucial junctions and interfaces constantly determine how much power can be fed in or consumed. The grid can interact with modern communication equipment and automatic control stations to adapt to the current requirements at all times. This flexibility also helps detect or prevent errors.
We at innogy aim to make the grid capable of performing all of these roles in parallel. Our grid will not only be able to meet the challenges of the future; it will also be at the very heart of developing future technologies itself. It is for this reason that we have teamed up with 46 partners to knit the Smart Grid (Designetz) to provide reliable and economically viable solutions for the successful transformation of our energy systems.
“Everything is interlinked in the smart grid of the future. Even the battery storage facility in the Swabian family home has to know whether there is a storm crossing the North Sea. SmartPool enables us to reconcile generation, consumption and the grid intelligently.”
Martin Kramer is our expert for virtual power plants
Data-Driven Maintenance. Is a medium-voltage cable about to fail? What about the lifetime of a transformer? And how can you optimise fault monitoring on high and medium-voltage cables? Questions like these are easier to answer if you are able to collect relevant data and to connect them via “smart” algorithms so that they can be analysed. At innogy Grid & Infrastructure we have developed new methods for this purpose in our project named “Data-Driven Maintenance”. In this project, we examined five specific use cases from the technical environment of the power grid with the aim of cutting operating and investment costs.
In the past, we already used various methods to assess maintenance conditions. However, the new approach includes additional data such as weather and environmental data, but also historical data (e.g. the amount and kind of stress the equipment has been exposed to in the last few years of operation). By connecting and analysing all data available we are able to assess plants and equipment more reliably and predict fault patterns more precisely. As a result, it is possible to cut costs for technicians and extend the expected lifetime of the assets. For instance, we have developed an algorithm which uses the data available from all Westnetz transformers (110 kV) to determine the lifetime of each and every transformer in order to be able to assess its individual use.
The results achieved in the nine-month project are excellent. We will therefore expand our activities in this area and are currently launching a “Data Analytics Lab” to examine additional applications.
Designetz. What will the future energy system have to look like in order to be able to integrate distributed, renewable generation into the supply system? The Designetz project aims to answer this question.
The research consortium led by innogy aims to develop extensive sample solutions that enable a more reliable, profitable and environmentally-friendly energy supply. These solutions are designed to integrate a large share of fluctuating input from energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and to test this on a large scale.
The Designetz project is being carried out in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland Palatinate and Saarland. The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy recognises the importance of the project and has provided tens of millions in funding for it.
Designetz can be seen live on an “Energy Route” that is currently being developed: approximately 30 individual Designetz projects will be presented at “stops” along the route. The first stop has already been inaugurated at our Power-to-Gas plant in Ibbenbüren. It shows the most important facts on Designetz and Power-to-Gas. Another stop has been set up at our Grid4EU project in Reken. More will follow. A matching App provides interested people with an interactive and three-dimensional experience.
SmartPool. A particularly intelligent way to simplify grid control in a situation with many different producers was tested in our SmartPool development project and has already been launched in the market. The concept is based on the advanced virtual power plant in which a number of distributed generating units are pooled in order to market their power output.
However, the SmartPool energy management system can do even more: it can make the virtual power plant available to other users, now also including grid operators. SmartPool does not only control distributed generation from windfarms or private solar PV systems, but is also able to integrate charging stations and battery storage solutions. This makes it an essential platform for the energy transition, i.e. the link between the market and the grid.