Unlocking solar energy transmission for plant operators with an entrepreneurial twist
Germany’s ambitious energy transition goals have accelerated the generation of renewable energy for many consecutive years, boosting the number of small renewable installations that feed into the distribution grid from all around the country. ENVIRIA alone has added more than 20 MW to it since its founding. Against this backdrop, grid operators have been confronted with a mounting influx of fluctuating renewable supply from decentralized locations which needs to be seamlessly integrated into the grid.
In order to sustain the grid and keep it stable during times of high influx, regular grid controlling systems adjust the maximum power generation limit to one of 4 setpoints for each type of generation (wind, solar, etc.) without checking the feedback of these power plants. Since the 2012 EEG amendment (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz), plants larger than 100kWp are required to use a system that includes the feedback of the actual power production value. Most grid operators still use the old system, realizing that smart grids need more data and more possibilities to control individual power plants. The actual directive for energy generation plants larger than 135kW, the VDE AR N 4110, also stipulates the usage of smart remote-control systems and describes the technical specifications, such as data points that a control system can provide.
We had to take matters in our own hands
Machen wir es selbst!
The moment we saw the delays and our own partners struggling with the shortages, we had to take matters in our own hands. We knew we have the expertise, so we thought “Let’s just do this ourselves!”. We bought the hardware and programmed the system in a way that everyone could use it. It’s always better to be good-to-go after a few tweaks instead of reinventing the wheel with each project. At the end of the day we aim for the energy transition of an entire society. We need to help each other, and we are proud to share our expertise.
Matthias Lingg, Head of Engineering bei ENVIRIA
System operators have welcomed this development with a pinch of salt: specialized engineers are in short supply, leading to numerous delays in grid connections and high prices around the country. Adding fuel to fire, variations between individual grid operator protocols render standardized solutions ineffective, often requiring supplementary sets of data points and different communication protocols that complicate the technical setup of each system.
ENVIRIA was quick to step up to the task – with projects in our pipeline also pending grid connection, there was no time to waste. Our teams scrambled to find all the hardware components that, with the right modifications, could be assembled into a solution meeting the outlined technical specifications. Once these were identified and obtained, the team reviewed the protocols of several grid operators and proceeded to program the remote-control system themselves (PLC- Programmable Logic Controller).
The result was the creation of an innovative prototype that allows for high levels of programming flexibility. In contrast to current solutions in the market that need to be programmed from scratch with each new project, ENVIRIA’s highly customizable system can easily be adapted and scaled to adhere to any new sets of data points requested.
Highly customizable, scalable solution, based on standard industrial hardware
Compatibility with most common remote-control systems
Self-programmed PLC to link the remote-control system gateway to power plant controllers
Additional safety features e.g. RS485 surge arresters
From that day forward, this self-developed system has been implemented in all of ENVIRIA’s solar power plants. This fast and unbureaucratic approach ensures that all our solar projects are connected to the grid without complications and on schedule, and at a fraction of the anticipated cost of a custom-built remote-control system.