The Smart Country Modellregion lies in the German State of Rhineland-Palatinate, in Bitburg-Prüm, a district in the Eifel region. When it comes to energy, this federal state is aiming to rely entirely on local resources such as sun and wind, biomass and geothermal heating. It’s an ambitious goal: by 2030, it hopes to cover its entire electricity consumption using renewables. If everything runs to plan, the share represented by wind power in the State’s electricity generation will increase fivefold by as early as 2020. As a result, the region is in a perfect position to develop solutions for a range of future scenarios. These include network flexibility and stability.
Smart Country should prevent network overloads
Most photovoltaic systems and wind turbines are located away from the cities. The downside is that the consumable load is lower in such areas. The Smart Country Region generates up to 17 times more electricity than can be consumed, but the distribution systems are not designed for load factors of that magnitude. They need to be expanded accordingly. Conventional network expansions, however, come at a huge cost and necessitate major construction work. Smart Country is trialling innovative strategies to reduce both of these elements. The use of information and communications technology and storage systems enables the existing distribution systems to deal with the future challenges associated with the supply of electricity.
Intelligent control of distribution systems
Besides the load factor, fluctuations in power generation from renewables because of the weather pose major challenges for onshore electricity networks. If wind power systems and photovoltaic panels do not supply enough electricity, the power flows are balanced by using methane from a biogas storage system, which is fed into a biogas plant. To make this work, we have been collaborating with our project partners to combine two innovative approaches:
- Smart control of the biogas storage system, depending on the flow of electricity from renewables in the grid;
- Refinement of the biogas plant for start-stop generator operation.
Biogas plants normally operate without interruption: they constantly burn methane that is continuously generated by fermentation processes.
Smart balancing for voltage fluctuations
Switching between load and feed-in situations because of weather conditions causes voltage fluctuations in the distribution system. These fluctuations must not exceed permissible limits – that’s a key quality feature of the grid. Step-by-step adjustments in a transformer station can stabilise the voltage. This works particularly efficiently with the wide-area control developed as part of the project. A few measuring points at individual local substations are enough to supply sufficient information about load flows in the medium-voltage grid.
Local energy efficiency solutions close to the people benefit rural areas
We and our partners are working to achieve local energy efficiency solutions that are close to the people as part of this project. Using smart concepts and incorporating the latest energy, information and communications technology help to drive forward the transformation of the energy sector, as well as bolstering the future viability of rural areas.