For reacting to feed-in deviations, there are essentially three different time windows:
Today, technology and the market itself have largely solved the first two scenarios. And while there is no solution for the third scenario yet, we’ll explain why it isn’t as problematic as it sounds.
As a VPP operator and power trader, we witness feed-in power deviations from wind and photovoltaic every day. An example situation might see power production at a solar park jump by 74 percent, while feed-in at a wind park suddenly drops by 80 percent, only to return to normal production minutes later. There are many similar combinations, but before fear sets in too deep: when was the last time there was a blackout at your home in Germany? With all likelihood, such an event is a few years hence: grid operators and market participants successfully manage to keep blackouts at bay several times every day – with and without the help of conventional power plants. Instances where no help at all is needed from conventional power plants are increasing, because the short-term flexibility needed to balance out these large transients can be provided by control reserve measures. These, in turn, are being offered by a growing number of renewable energy aggregators: With digitalization, VPPs are able to harness new sources of flexibility from bio-energy and hydro power, CHP plants, networking of emergency gensets, or in utilizing demand response applications from C&I consumers. Aggregated in a VPP, these technologies help level out the transients caused by solar and wind power production. Furthermore, large-scale batteries also help reduce the impact of grid fluctuations. In the long run, this will make large-scale power plants obsolete, even if they are still needed today to provide primary reserve services.
Today, a dunkelflaute of any size poses no blackout risk. Conventional power plants are still shouldering most of the burden, but even as these power producers are shut down in the future, we will manage dunkelflaute risks the same way we do today. Here’s why:
Given the magnitude and the complexity of this challenge, one thing is clear: There is no single solution to solving the dunkelflaute “problem.” Instead, it requires a series of changes in how we use and perceive our power system. It starts with aggregating small-scale units in a VPP, or, to put it another way: harnessing the advantages of digitalization. However, more than anything else, we need the courage to believe in new technology, because it is nearly impossible to determine exactly which technologies will form the pillars of the energy system in 2050. Nevertheless, we need to start making progress and moving forward instead of hesitating and waiting for the perfect solution. We should also find the courage to end subsidies for conventional fossil technology such as lignite. Furthermore, conventional over-capacities need to be drastically reduced to create an incentive for moving forward. We believe the market will adjust to the new conditions and that we will see new, merit-based flexibility options that will reflect the needs of the changing energy system. In the end, our greatest fear should be climate change – not a dunkelflaute scare crow.
This article is a translation of a previously released article from the German Newspaper "Tagesspiegel".
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With the rise of renewables all over the world, we are facing a gigantic transformation of the global energy system. The Virtual Power Plant answers the demands of the decentralized energy world and opens up new business prospects for its participants and, of course, RES aggregators. We help you utilize them in the best possible way.