Electrical grid complexity has increased immensely. Recently, weather damage and intermittent renewable energy production have increased the dynamics that must be managed in a large power grid. In order to address that, the Dutch company Alfen is currently field testing their new ‘cellular smart grid’ solution in Lelystad, the Netherlands.
They have developed a combination of energy storage and finely tuned algorithms to help make electrical grids more resilient and to reduce their downtime.
Alfen is a producer of transformer substations, energy storage systems, smart grids and charging stations for electric vehicles. In 2012, Alfen got a $1,000,000 government grant to design this hardware.
From the Alfen website –
“This new grid solution, the Cellular Smart Grid Platform (CSGriP), divides the central grid into many small cells that have the ability to function autonomously. In case of a central grid power outage, these local cells take over control.”
The system is designed to slowly bring the power grid up, cell by cell, in case of a massive failure. One of the keys is that it knows how to deal with many smaller, local energy producers – such as solar and wind. It first immediately redistributes power to local users, then connects to external cells.
Alfen has been involved in other projects involving load frequency and energy storage for the power grid. This piece of hardware would perfectly sit within and manage a broader grid with ‘dummy’ energy storage.
Right now, much of the world is thinking about how to protect its local electricity production from broader complexities (weather namely, terrorism and global political challenges on other levels). In Puerto Rico we see Tesla being celebrated for rolling out solar+storage at hospitals – concurrently we’re seeing that solar panels installations can handle category five hurricanes if designed properly. During the California wildfires we saw a solar microgrid stay up, when everything else around them was hurting.
Prior to modern distributed generation technology, taking out the power plant or the power lines was enough to bring down a broad area. Back in 2003, a cascading effect brought down the power grid of the entire northeast USA.
However, distributed power generation changed that model – like from residential solar, we now have power coming into the grid from many different directions. And if we have hardware, like this new product by Alfen, we now have distributed smart cells that have automated backup capacity smartly keeping up chunks of the power grid.
Power companies will make maps of their overall power grid, and insert these machines at strategic points. ConEdison, in New York City, will already pay you a bonus if you install solar power within certain areas that it deems it necessary to strengthen the grid. Will they start paying you to host these smart shipping containers also?