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Smart sol'ns for effective renewables management

Posted: 27 Mar 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Fraunhofer Energy Alliance  renewables  energy management 

A team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance has revealed that they will be demonstrating their energy solutions for energy providers, small and medium-sized enterprises and homes. According to them, smart energy management systems are the way to put robust supply networks in place and to ensure that renewables are harnessed as efficiently as possible.

The reason behind these solutions is that despite increasingly more of our electrical energy is coming from sources where supply is variable, whether from wind turbines, solar parks or biomass facilities, grid structures, industry and private households alike are not yet prepared to deal with the inevitable fluctuations.

"Wind, solar and biogas are all energy sources with their own strengths and weaknesses. And it's by combining the strengths of each in a smart way that we'll be able to guarantee Germany's energy supply into the future," said Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology IWES in Kassel. But what happens when, instead of a big power plant, you have a host of individual small energy producers feeding in energy to the grid at varying times? Is reliable operation of the grid still technically feasible? In the "Combined Power Plant 2" research project, both science and industry have answered the question with a resounding yes. Their concept: to use a software platform to bring together a multitude of small energy providers within a virtual power plant."

Software platform brings decentralized providers together

Experts have already conducted a test showing that this setup does indeed work reliably in practice, having combined numerous wind parks, biogas and photovoltaic facilities delivering a total output of over 80MW in a virtual combined-cycle power plant. Because small providers work together, regional variations in wind and sun can be evened out via the grid or using biogas facilities that can be regulated according to requirement. Surplus energy is either stored or converted into heat. The result is a powerful network that remains decentralized but can still operate as a larger unit in energy trading markets. And it's not just the facilities brought together in the virtual power plant that can be managed and monitored via the software platform. The energy generated can be marketed, too.

"The results of the Combined Power Plant 2 project demonstrate that network reliability can be guaranteed even when relying purely on renewables," said Rohrig. Fraunhofer IWES offers the relevant control mechanisms and forecasting systems for a variety of applications, including the Wind Power Management System and Regional Virtual Power Plant for the energy industry.

Dynamic energy management systems

More and more companies are generating energy themselves, using solar installations or systems that recover energy from manufacturing waste, in an effort to cut costs. Now, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg have developed dynamic energy management systems that manage distributed energy providers, storage and current energy consumption efficiently. Installed in a company, such a system determines whether enough renewable energy will still be available to charge the fleet of electric company cars once power has been supplied to the HVAC system. So that the system can operate fully automatically, the amount of energy required and the amount of power expected to be produced on a given day are measured at first for general planning. In the detailed planning stage, data are supplied for the next fifteen minutes.

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