We are building a smarter grid

Hanover Fair provided a good opportunity for the Power Consulting team to advise on industrial power grids

It is exciting to be a power engineer and have the chance to be part of the ongoing transformation of the energy system. Industry is already embracing the integration of renewables in their power systems. As a power consultant, I really get to grips with our customers’ projects and plans and these almost always involve a challenge related to the grid.

At Hanover Fair in April, I met representatives of most stakeholders in the German ‘Energiewende’, or energy turnaround, as well as industries and utilities from all over the world. We were there as the Power Consulting team, demonstrating and discussing our “Industry Check” consulting product. For industry, reliable and economic power grids are the backbone for the production lines. The industry focus is often on optimization of the production plant and less so on optimizing power grids. Whether basic or expansion planning, grid restructuring or integration of decentralized energy production, every change in a power grid requires accurate analysis and adaptation to the new loads and generators.

With our “Industry Check”, we offer our customers a one-day workshop as a starting point to analyze if the electric infrastructure is still reliable and safe, identify weak spots and elaborate recommendations for an action plan. In general, my team plans customers’ grids to allow more efficient and reliable operation and maintenance. We support our customers when there has been an outage in their power grid. Using specific applications, from load flow and short circuit calculations to entire system studies, the ABB Power Consulting team can perform the necessary checks and make specific recommendations.

Regarding distribution systems, one major challenge is to cope with a high number of distributed energy sources connected to low and medium-voltage grids. With our “Smart Planning” concept, we support them in developing their grid step by step to allow the integration of more and more renewable energy.

First, we classify the grid based on a few structural parameters and identify those segments which might be problematic. The next step is to take a fingerprint of the respective grid segment and then efficiently measure whether the grid is at its hosting limits or if it can still accept more renewables. And if our measurements show that these limits have been reached, grid expansion – for example with a voltage regulation unit – is recommended. This helps to make a grid smarter step by step.

For us Hanover Fair was a great occasion to have in-depth discussions with people from different backgrounds and with different aims – technology experts, politicians, students, managers, for example. The utilities and grid operators confirmed that such an approach is needed now to simplify their processes and grid connection procedures. Politicians, students and managers confirmed that we could help them to understand the capacity of the grid for greater hosting of renewables. And our robust step-by-step approach can easily be integrated in annual planning processes, helping to optimize expenditures.

After a packed week in Hanover, I look forward to visiting the real grids and helping develop them further. As I said at the beginning, it is exciting to be a power engineer in these times and part of shaping the electricity grid of the future.


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About the author

Britta Buchholz

I have been passionate about integrating renewables into our energy system for more than 20 years now. My job as head of Power Consulting for ABB in Germany gives me the opportunity to support distribution and transmission system operators and industry in developing efficient and sustainable energy systems – and also hosting more renewables. For the international organization CIGRE, I chair the study committee C6 on “Distribution systems and dispersed generation”, and I am a member of the CIGRE Technical Committee.
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