Wind power demands

A fundamental reassessment of approaches to the design, construction and operation of grids.

Experience has shown that this is not the situation, the volatility and intermittency of wind power represents a significant challenge for maintaining the stability of existing grid infrastructure. To facilitate the growth of wind power we need to undertake a fundamental reassessment of current approaches to the design, construction and operation of grids.

Wind power has become one of the largest subsectors of power generation in many countries, with further, accelerated growth expected as the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from these resources continues to fall. As a result, we are experiencing substantial challenges in maintaining the stability and reliability of grids. It is becoming clear that the main task is not simply to connect wind farms to existing systems but to develop new, more effective systems capable of incorporating ever-larger amounts of wind energy.

In most of the developed world, transmission and distribution grids have been created to serve large, centralized generation plants based on fossil fuels or nuclear energy. Historically it is a role they have performed very well to provide secure energy supplies to their end users. Furthermore, these plants are usually relatively close to the population and industrial centers that consume the power.

This situation is changing, because wind power is strongly linked to location; wind turbines need to be installed where the wind blows — in remote countryside or far out to sea — which means production is often distant from the point of consumption. In many cases, we are aiming to feed large amounts of energy into the grid at its extreme fringes, a function it was never designed to handle, and where the grid is ‘weak’, lacking the required strength and capacity.

The volatility and rapid ramp rates of wind also lead to faster, larger, relatively unpredictable supply-side fluctuations in grids that were designed to handle predictable baseload generation, supported by a peak-load plant.

These challenges have technical implications in all aspects of the supply, transmission, distribution, and use of electricity. Key technical developments are already making a significant contribution to addressing these challenges. Three particularly noteworthy developments that are helping to address these issues are long-distance, high-performance transmission networks; smart power-management systems; and the integration of highly distributed elements, both in production and the smart management of consumption.

I will be on hand at ABB’s stand No. 200, HA4 at the upcoming WindEurope Summit and WindEnergy Hamburg 2016 taking place in Hamburg, Germany from September 27-30, 2016 and look very much forward to discuss existing technologies and their application in real-life projects to overcome the challenge of electrical transmission and distribution and demonstrate how wind is becoming a reality in today’s energy mix.

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About the author

Alfredo Parres

I am the head of ABB's Wind Industry Sector Initiative. Currently based in Spain, I am passionate about wind energy and the many opportunities it offers to transform the world. I have been active in the wind industry since 1999 in the areas of marketing, sales, business development and product management. Since 2013, I have been the chairman of the Renewable Energy Working Group at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China and now a board member of the WindEurope and chair of its Networks Working Group.
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