A new project IREN2 (Future Viable Networks for Integration of Renewable Energy Systems) has been started in Wildpoldsried in the Allgäu region in southern Germany to investigate the economics and technical aspects of microgrids and other network structures in a changing energy mix.
The project will build on the smart grid pilot project IRENE (Integration of Renewable Energies and Electromobility), which was successfully concluded in Wildpoldsried at the end of 2013.
Distributed generation optimization
The goal of the project is to discover how energy systems with distributed power generation and additional components like battery storage devices, block district heating power plants, biogas plants and diesel generators can be technically and economically optimized.
Over the three-year project period, the research consortium also plans to test microgrids as island networks, and they will assess the use and operation of microgrids as so-called topological power plants (i.e. network sections in which loads and power generators can be controlled jointly like a conventional power plant).
The existing smart grid infrastructure already installed in Wildpoldsried, which will serve as the foundation for the project, is well suited as a platform for ongoing investigations. Today the volume of electrical power generated from renewable energy sources in Wildpoldsried is five times higher than the community’s own requirement. During the predecessor project IRENE, which ran from mid-2011 to the end of 2013, a smart grid was created in this Allgäu community in order to balance power generation and consumption and so keep the network stable. Two controllable distribution transformers and a stationary battery storage system were installed for this purpose. The smart grid is also equipped with an elaborate measurement system, a modern communications infrastructure, and renewable distributed power generators including photovoltaic and biogas plants.
Economic and technical criteria
The project will focus on the economic and technical criteria. The studies based on economic criteria are aimed first and foremost at finding the most cost-effective development variant among the diverse grid structures and analyzing different operating strategies. The technical analyses will include the interactions between the power generators and loads, measurement and control technology, stability studies, development of protection concepts, and the implementation of intelligent network structures.
The project consortium includes the utility Allgäuer Überlandwerke, university partners Hochschule Kempten (Kempten University) and RWTH Aachen, IT company ID.KOM, and energy giant Siemens.
The IREN2 project is expected to lay the foundation for a future renewable energy system that balances the conflicting interests of regulation and the energy market. It should also contribute to addressing the challenge of integrating the rapidly growing share of renewable energies. [Engerati-Germany’s Energiewende is destabilizing the grid]