The rapid increase of intermittent renewable energy is putting an increasing pressure on global electricity grids. To make power grids more resilient to external influences, Dutch energy expert Alfen is launching a new solution: A platform that allows local parts of the grid to disconnect from the central grid and self-heal.
Cellular Smart Grid Platform
This new grid solution, the Cellular Smart Grid Platform (CSGriP), divides the central grid into many small cells that have the ability to function autonomously. In case of a central grid power outage, these local cells take over control. They automatically start restoring all local sources of energy supply, such as solar and wind, and distribute this energy amongst local consumers. At the core of this local grid is an energy storage system developed by Alfen. This solution ensures that the balance between production and consumption is maintained. Once the grid balance within a cell is restored, it automatically reconnects to other cells and, as such, quickly rebuilds the larger power grid. Consequently, both the duration and size of central grid power outages are reduced significantly.
The Alfen solution in practice
CSGriP is being field tested at the Application Centre for Renewable Resources (ACRRES) in Lelystad, the Netherlands. It combines local energy sources (solar, wind and biogas) with local energy consumers. At the heart of this infrastructure is an 0.5 MW energy storage system and a complex algorithm used for local energy management. Both solutions are developed and delivered by Alfen.
Energy Storage Specialist at Alfen, Evert Raaijen, comments: “Unique about this solution is that the local cells are intrinsically stable through self-adjustment of supply and demand based on the frequency of the electricity grid. This makes the grid truly self-healing in cases of central grid outages. The self-healing mechanism based on frequencies sets it apart from many IT-related smart grids that require relatively vulnerable data and ICT connections for balancing local grids.”
The future of power grids
The Cellular Smart Grid Platform can prepare grids that are already well-developed for a future that will be significantly more decentral and renewables-oriented. Furthermore, even bigger opportunities exist in parts of the world that still need to be electrified. Instead of constructing central systems based on large fossil-fuel power plants, local grids based on renewables are the logical approach in greenfield situations.
Evert Raaijen: “We have vast experience with local micro-grids in the well-developed regions, but are also increasingly asked to put our experience with storage, power grids and energy management into practice in other areas in the world, enabling them to leapfrog towards the energy system of the future”.
In addition to Alfen, project partners include the Delft University of Technology, Application Centre for Renewable Resources, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Avans University, Bredenoord, DNVGL and grid operator Alliander. The project is being supported with a subsidy from RVO-TKI Urban Energy.