These are no easy times for power grid operators: It is all about constantly optimizing grid management. At the same time, the regulated providers must integrate decentralized and fluctuating power producers into their infrastructure. This, along with automation, demands huge investment, with boundary conditions changing all the time. Harmonization of the grids for electricity, gas and heat is also on the agenda (sector coupling). This calls for intelligent solutions to make the energy grids “wind and weatherproof” on a lasting basis. IAV is using its expertise from automotive engineering for the energy sector, opening up room for maneuvering in grid management for providers.
To cope with the energy transition, innovative solutions are currently called for in all sorts of different areas and at all voltage levels. This applies in particular to grid stability. The yield from wind and solar power plants cannot be planned – depending on weather conditions, their production can quickly fluctuate. Nonetheless, the grid operators must guarantee that the system-related requirements for voltage, phase and frequency are met under all circumstances. “Decentralized control concepts are needed that harmonize various intervening measures and manage with minimum communication” explains Dr. Caspar Jürgens who, as a result of his many years of experience in the industry, is giving new impetus to the subjects of energy and infrastructure at IAV.
This is where IAV’s automotive expertise comes into play: The complex open and closed-loop control algorithms from the vehicle’s controllers are also suitable for operating grids or individual decentralized generators, such as wind power stations, with optimum results. The aim of the operator of a wind power plant, for example, could be to minimize stress on particularly costly components or to implement specific operating concepts – conceivable here, apart from maximizing power production, are also functions to support the grid”, Jürgens says. Solutions like these are made possible by transferring control concepts from the automotive segment to the power supply industry.
Optimizing grid planning
The large number of decentralized generators and the demand for grid stability are forcing grid operators to expand and reorganize their infrastructure. To save costs within the regulated framework, intelligence should be used wherever possible: “The target grid must meet all criteria for optimum operational control and troubleshooting while at the same time minimizing running costs”, Jürgens says. “Using high-dimensional optimization algorithms from automotive engineering, we can develop the best solutions under the given boundary conditions for the requirements in hand.” IAV offer its customers a transparent and intuitive comparison of various grid topology options as well as automatic computation of the target grid.
Growing complexity in the overall energy supply system demands the mechatronization of operating control as the key to digitizing it for controlling the system in near-real time
Customers could be any of the grid companies. Interested parties are currently the first-order distribution grids and public utilities. “We offer them a segment solution for the specific target group concerned that takes into account their own specifications”, Jürgens says. “Our service usually begins where relevant standard products are stretched to their limits.” IAV’s experts have, for example, successfully developed solutions for a public service corporation, which supplies 100,000 people with electricity, and for the operator of a rural distribution grid. In both cases, the focus is on optimizing grid expansion – it is to be done at the lowest possible cost, thereby opening up financial freedom for the customer.
Solutions across system and voltage levels
“Our unique selling points include our ability to offer a solution across all system levels and optimize them across different voltage levels”, says Jürgens, summarizing. In future, there will also be an increasing demand to optimize grids for electricity, gas and water in terms of their interdependencies. For example, gas grids traditionally use gas-operated compressors which could be replaced or supplemented with compressors running on electricity. “The use of electrically operated compressors raises entirely new questions on the operating side, particularly when it comes to providing balancing power”, Jürgens explains. “To control these facilities, IAV can draw on its experience with alternative drive systems and adapt the algorithms used there to new functions in the energy sector.”
Interlinking various systems also takes place at the recharging stations for e-vehicles. Here, the demands of mobility (rapid charging) must be reconciled with those of the grid operator (stability).
In this field, for example, IAV masters the demands on communication and IT security. Both are crucial to ensuring secure communication in the e-mobility process chain and essential for all kinds of business models. “From our perspective, there are many reasons for transferring expertise from automotive engineering to the energy sector”, Jürgens sums up. “This is why we have significantly stepped up our involvement in this field, both in terms of subject matter covered and human resources – in future, we want to offer the competencies of over 6,500 members of staff and the experience from 30 years of automotive engineering, and use all this to provide future-proof, digitized solutions for energy and infrastructure. Operating and planning power grids is a start. Also conceivable would be to use IAV’s development expertise for complex industrial standalone grids (in Chemparks, for example) as well as for new products, like a low-cost heat pump, recharging infrastructure or a smart meter gateway that meets all boundary conditions.”