The Combined Power Plant 2 Project: Renewable energy yielding results

A network of small power plants capable of replacing traditional power stations has long been the dream of proponents of renewable energy. The idea, however, has always foundered on concerns over whether a decentralised network could meet national energy demands and provide a stable service while dealing with such huge capacities. Now, a team of European researchers have taken a giant step towards making this dream a reality with the Combined Power Plant 2 (Kombikraftwerk2) project.

The virtual prototype of the combined power plant developed by the project has already shown that it is technologically possible to let each individual producer feed their electricity into the grid and have the grid remain stable during this process. The project will be displaying its prototype system at the Hanover Trade Fair from 8 to 12 April 2013.

"Each source of energy - be it wind, sun or biogas - has its strengths and weaknesses," says Dr Kurt Rohrig, Deputy Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES), one of the EU-funded project's main partners. "If we manage to skilfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply."

The virtual prototype has been on trial since January 2011 and has yielded some very positive results. The project has linked, via the internet, 25 plants with a nominal power output of 120 megawatts and, as simulated storage, a pumped storage power plant and electric vehicles. A central control base ensures that the disadvantages of the renewable energies are reduced, taking into account that the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not blow continuously.

When many small producers work together the regional differences regarding wind and sunshine can be balanced out by the power grid or controllable biogas facilities. In addition, surplus power can be stored or turned into thermal energy.

The project has shown that, rather than threaten the integrity of the grid, renewable energies can in fact stabilise it. On some days of the year, the electricity being generated from sun, wind, biomass, water and geothermal production is already accounting for more than half of the load required.

"Due to their decentralised character and innovative developments, renewables can already contribute to stabilising the power supply system of today," says Kaspar Knorr, project manager of the Combined Power Plant2 research project at IWES. "With the Combined Power Plant 2, we are able to demonstrate how the renewables master this task and how they can ensure the stable supply of electricity in the future."

In addition to providing the main power supply, renewable energy sources will also have to increasingly make contributions to ancillary services such as frequency and voltage stabilisation, black start capability (to recover from a total or partial shutdown independently of a power grid) and inertia reserve. In the current system, this is the responsibility of a few central producers ? primarily traditional power plants which ensure that these requirements are being met.

In the future, according to the Combined Power Plant 2 model, the renewable energy network will also be able to take responsibility for providing these ancillary services.
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Data Source Provider: Fraunhofer-Institute for Wind Energy and Energy

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