Christian: Why did production stop at midnight? There seemed to be more storage capacity available.
Max: Our prognosis data showed a decrease in the wind - as a precaution, the Virtual Power Plant tells the plant to stop production. When the wind took a little while longer to die down and the market price remained low, gas production was started up again on short notice. At about 2:30 a.m. the wind was blowing stronger again and we were producing gas until the storage was full. We could have produced much more gas that night, but the plant has a limited capacity for storing gas, and the natural gas network can only accept so much hydrogen.
Christian: Understood... then the “irregular” intervals when the plant is switched on and off are not only determined by the energy price but also the technical limitations of the natural gas grid?
Max: Exactly. This meant there were times when we couldn’t produce as much gas as we wanted to, such as January 5 at around midnight during another increase in wind with low prices. Unfortunately, we couldn’t increase the hydrogen input at that time. To keep from diluting the natural gas, the plant can only add a certain amount of hydrogen into the natural gas mix.
Christian: All right, so it isn’t perfect, but you're on the right track?
Max: Absolutely. The plant reacted splendidly to storm Axel, especially on January 3. By working with our Virtual Power Plant, the power-to-gas plant was able to provide flexibility, ease the load on the distribution grid, and convert the wind energy in a sensible way. In the future, we of course want to further optimize the off and on periods in varying winds and the fluctuating prices that result. That would let us align gas production with the energy price developments as closely as possible.
Christian: What about the storage capacity?
Max: If you expand the storage capacity, you can of course store more excess wind energy as gas. To increase the hydrogen input into the gas mix, you can chemically or organically put the hydrogen through a methanation process, or increase the proportion of hydrogen in the gas mix.
Christian: Seems there will be plenty to report on this project in the future...
Max: Correct. It’s really a lot of fun, especially when we’re working here with a cross-departmental team of energy traders, IT specialists, and connection technology experts, along with our partners from the Hassfurt utility department and Greenpeace Energy. There’s still a lot there - for more blog posts, too!
Christian: Max, thanks a lot for your time and we wish you lots of luck and lots of fun with your project - we’ll look forward to more exciting stories!