Ireland’s TSO talks renewables integration with Engerati

Ian Connaughton, programme manager DS3 at Ireland’s TSO, Eirgrid talks to Engerati about Ireland’s rapid progress on embracing distributed and non-synchronous power generation.
Published: Fri 05 Apr 2019

A leading expert on the integration of renewable energy sources Ian Connaughton, programme manager DS3 at Ireland’s TSO, Eirgrid, is set to speak at the Renewable Grid Initiative (RGI) in Barcelona later this month.

As this international meeting of minds on key power system flexibility challenges draws nearer, Connaughton talks to Engerati about Ireland’s rapid progress on embracing distributed and non-synchronous power generation and the lessons international transmission owners can take away from the ambitious DS3 programme behind this push.

Engerati: What’s the latest update on Ireland’s DS3 grid services programme?

Connaughton: We are aiming to have an instantaneous operational limit of 70% non-synchronous generation by the end of this year, followed by 75% in 2020, up from 65% currently. Procurement is underway in 14 different areas so we can cater for increasing high renewable penetration, predominantly wind.

We have a second procurement phase for very fast frequency response out for tender at the moment for volume capped services and a Qualification Trial Process (QTP) for technologies that have not previously been certified for service provision. This year’s QTP is designed to be a gateway for solar, residential services and enhancements to existing service providers, as well as new communication methods.

We have a wind security assessment tool that provides a snapshot of wind resource, forecast, demand, which we use to determine how much is safe to despatch. We’re in the process of enhancing our existing wind security assessment tool and two other projects to design a voltage trajectory tool and ramping tool are open to market and being shortlisted.

E: What are the key challenges for TSOs in Europe with regard to integrating renewables?

C: Renewable output is forecastable but can change quickly so you need fast reacting services, and at high levels of renewable such services will mainly come from providers who are on the grid at that time. Typically these services have not been offered by renewables and therein lies the challenge. 

Demand side management also has a role to play in providing system services.  You need to incentivise new providers by paying more for services than in the past. We worked with regulators, securing an increase in system services funding, from £75m up to £235m for next year.

E: How have automation and advanced IT systems facilitated this project?

C: If you go from having a small number of existing generators to a large number of new wind turbines you need the technologies to handle that. The key point is you have to be able to measure the response of units providing services.

Was it there when it needed to be, did they respond in a timely fashion? It’s carrot and stick: in order for us to be able to pay them we have to do a lot of performance monitoring. In conjunction with industry we use high speed data recorders. That data is consolidated and compared against a profile of what we expected them to do.

E: Have you learned any lessons that might be useful for other European TSOs?

C: Make sure you have a multi-strand approach. You need the system, tools, stakeholders from industry and regulators on board. If you don’t get all these things to join up it won’t work. There’s no point in having the tools if there’s no market, or no money. We have a DS3 advisory council with industry, government, regulators to drive and steer the programme, as we didn’t really have places to go and see what had been done before. Those councils and industry forums were very helpful.

E: How are you working with your European counterparts and how do you see this collaboration evolving?

C: We are leading the EU-SysFlex project, one of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programmes.  (EU-SysFlex involves 34 organisations from 15 countries across Europe and aims to identify issues associated with integrating large amounts of renewable energy and to create a long-term roadmap of solutions.)

Thus far the EU-SysFlex project has created reports illustrating where the scarcities and shortfalls of the systems will be, going from the current state of renewable energy sources for electricity on the system towards 50% and beyond throughout Europe.

During the next 6-12 months the project will focus on developing models to detail simulations of the technical shortfalls and the focus in our demonstration projects will be optimising of tools and flexibility based on the use cases developed within the first 12 months of the project.

Also, the next 6-12 months will kick off the work on optimising grid node, DSO-TSO interactions, as well as optimising integration of distributed resources in the TSO. The next 12 months will also lead to development of a dispatch and scheduling software for multiple system services which will create the base for a dispatcher training simulator for a high RES-E network.

We are going to start a forum called Flex-tech to explore our future needs, how will we operate and pay for the grid of the future, what are the barriers and solutions to overcome these barriers, which we will likely announce in May. We’re always looking for what else is out there what can help resolve these issues now and in the future.

E: Will  battery and hybrid energy storage projects be prioritised for grid connections?

C: We are agnostic as to technology, but in conjunction with the regulators in Ireland in the Enduring Connection Policy – 1, a new system for issuing connection offers for new generation and storage capacity, battery storage projects are prioritised, for Ireland only.

We do see a need for some sort of storage, whether longer-life batteries or something else, to give a longer service provision than typical current models (which usually focus on short bursts of very fast services to stabilise the system). That may not be enough when the wind doesn’t blow.  

E: How will the new Celtic interconnector between Ireland and France impact the DS3 programme?

C: With the interconnector we should see increased competition as a result of increases in electricity trading and downward pressure on cost of electricity.  Security of supply is also important especially where we have high levels of renewables on the grid.   Increased connection should help with the provision on additional system services as well as facilitating the transition to a low carbon future.  It would be our only direct connection to Europe in the event of Brexit.