Outlook on the future of renewables
WindNODE is subsidised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs (BMWi) as a ‘smart energy showcase’. This demonstrates a network of flexible energy consumers who can align their consumption of electricity with the intermittent offer of wind and solar power stations. The objective is the system integration of large volumes of renewable energy while also keeping the power grids stable. As such, transferable model solutions are developed that can also move the energy transition forward elsewhere.
Towards 100 % renewable energy
WindNODE is working towards a future in which our electricity requirements can be covered almost entirely by renewable sources. Today, one third of the electricity in Germany is already generated by renewable sources, mainly wind and solar power. This is much more than even optimists had hoped for a few years ago. However, what does ‘one third of renewables’ mean? This is actually an average, calculated over the entire year, as sun and wind are volatile energy sources that only intermittently supply energy. During windless nights, there is almost no green power, so that coal- and gas-fired power stations have to help out. During sunny, windy days, by contrast, wind and solar power stations may generate a lot more electricity than is actually required in certain regions. In the transmission and distribution grids, which bring green power to urban and industrial consumers, this creates the risk of overloads – which can be so high at times that the output by wind turbines and solar power stations has to be reduced (so-called feed-in management). The greatest challenge for the further growth of renewable energy will be system integration. In other words, the question is how the generated renewable energy can be made available at the right place at the right time.
The smart grid is flexible
To ensure that the power grid remains stable, offer and demand have to be balanced at all times. This principle is as old as the electricity supply itself. New, however, is that wind and sun – contrary to coal- and gas-fired power plants – cannot be adjusted and can hardly respond to consumer demand. Then how can users’ consumption of electricity be coordinated optimally with the intermittent generation and the grids be kept stable? It is exactly this question that the more than 70 partners from north-eastern Germany seek to answer by working together in the WindNODE project. In addition to the required grid development, an important part of the answer is: flexibility. Anyone who has ever booked a holiday trip knows the principle. If the customer is flexible and can plan their trip during a period when few other people are travelling, they can benefit from the most favourable hotel rates. In the power grid as well, we look for flexible customers who can literally adjust their consumption to the weather forecast and save money in return. For instance, a factory can plan part of its production in a period when a powerful wind front is expected to pass over the country. A supermarket can cool its freezers ‘in advance’, as the products will remain sufficiently cold, even when the cooling units remain inactive during subsequent low wind periods. At WindNODE, we systematically search for such flexibility in industry, commerce and residential areas. And if there is too much electricity available at certain times, we work on power storage units with large batteries and on the electrification of the heat supply (Power-to-Heat) and road traffic (electromobility). This sector coupling is a decisive instrument to replace the fossil fuels that still dominate the heat supply and road traffic (coal, oil, natural gas) with renewable electricity (so-called decarbonisation).
The WindNODE partners are also working on the required information and communication technology to signal the connected users when the time is right to consume electricity. To this end, weather forecasts, expected power generation and other information is required. This gives users the possibility to plan their consumption based on the wind and solar power available and sell the saved electricity on an innovative platform. Power system operators can use the offered flexibilities to avoid overloads on the power grids at the lowest possible cost.
A showcase to get involved and participate
The WindNODE partners want to show professionals as well as interested citizens that a smart energy system can, in fact, be functional. In the showcase region of north-eastern Germany, new technologies and services can be tested. We develop solutions that can be used as blueprints for other regions and states. Some of the components of such a smart energy system can be observed at over 20 WindNODE visitor sites. Factories, supermarkets and neighbourhoods open their doors and show how production, cooling and heating can be adjusted to the wind and sun. Our travelling exhibit ‘WindNODE Live!’ will provide a global overview and also represent the ideas for the new world of energy in an artistic manner. Those who want to can also actively participate in WindNODE, for instance in the scope of idea contests.
Funded as a ‘smart energy showcase’ (SINTEG)
WindNODE is subsidised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) in the scope of the ‘Smart Energy Showcase’ (SINTEG) incentive scheme for a period of four years (2017-2020).