Research Headlines – Breaking down the barriers to 100 % renewable energy

An EU-funded project is developing new energy system concepts to tackle the technical electricity-grid-based challenges that stand in the way of achieving 100 % renewable electricity in Europe.

© petovarga #138845915, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com

With its punishing heat waves and devastating forest fires, 2018 might have been the year when many people started to take climate change seriously because they felt its effects directly. Today, renewable energy is one of the most promising climate-change-fighting technologies we have, and its share in the energy-generation mix is rising fast.

However, energy-generation systems are still dominated by large, inflexible fossil-fuel plants, which means that reaching a near-100 % renewable energy share is a major technical challenge. The EU-funded RE-SERVE project is solving some of the trickiest technical hurdles preventing the EU from achieving nearly 100 % renewable energy.

‘Many renewable energy sources have been and will be integrated into the grid. This change is affecting the physics of the grid, making it necessary to rethink the basics of control and automation,’ says RE-SERVE project coordinator Fiona Williams, research director at Ericsson GmbH in Germany. ‘RE-SERVE is defining new grid automation and control systems that will create the conditions for a new wave of renewables and give a glimpse of how the energy market could look in the future.’

Decoding the grid

Electricity grids are run according to a series of technical codes, which are rules that govern their operation and define how electricity flows through the grid from the point of generation to consumers in homes and businesses.

Today, these codes are designed to meet the needs of centralised fossil-fuel power stations. Renewable energy, however, is decentralised, meaning it is produced in many locations, from offshore wind farms to remote solar farms. Moreover, as the production of renewable energy is dependent on changing natural conditions, the grid also needs to run on near-real-time consumption schedules.

The RE-SERVE project is working towards establishing new pan-European technical and regulatory codes that will meet the very different needs of renewables. In turn, this will help the EU to reach 100 % renewable energy and improve competition in energy markets by enabling many more energy players to enter the market.

The grid of the future

The novel voltage and frequency control methods developed by the project are being tested in simulations on electricity grids in Romania and Ireland. The project is also defining requirements for 5G ICT networks to support energy systems with up to 100 % renewable energy systems integration.

In May this year, the project will hold an open day to demonstrate the deployment of one of the voltage control techniques developed by RE-SERVE in Dublin, Ireland.

Furthermore, in Romania, the RE-SERVE team has set up a frequency control laboratory trial. It monitors severe perturbations in the power system which impact system frequency, including short circuits, unexpected disconnection of large power generation units, and sudden changes in wind speed. The data will be used to help to develop new network codes.

Researchers are also developing environmentally, socially and economically sustainable business models to support their technical developments.

Williams hopes to see the project’s concepts taken up by companies and decision-makers in a bid to boost the transition to 100 % renewable energy sources across the EU.

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