17 October 2017 2017 01:00 PM GMT

Grids Integration, Energy Networks Boosted By Distributed Generation Growth

What is Distributed Generation? Distributed, or embedded, generation is that which is connected to distribution networks in the UK, with the vast majority being renewable generation.  At the end of 2016, there was around 29 GW of generating capacity connected to distribution networks, more than double the amount which existed just four years earlier. Distributed generation installation is getting wide attention in the restructured electricity regime, where there is a larger uncertainty in demand and supply.

Since the turn of the century, renewable energy has continued to develop at ever increasing rates, with remarkable growth seen since the start of this decade.  Around a quarter of all electricity produced annually now comes from renewable generation sources.

Investment in the renewables revolution has happened due to many factors: government policy support, innovation, technological progress and cost reductions across the industry.

The technologies adopted in Distributed Generation involve small gas turbines, micro-turbines, fuel cells, wind and solar energy, biomass, small hydropower, etc. Distributed Generation is either isolated and supplying the local loads, or integrated, supplying energy to the remaining electric system.

Distributed generation takes place on two levels: local and end-point level. Local level distribution generation usually comprise renewable energy technologies that are site specific. Local level distribution generation tends to be smaller and less centralised than conventional plants. At the end-point level, distribution generation can work as isolated islands of electric energy production or they can operate as small contributors to the power grid.

The rating of distribution generation can range from a few kilowatts up to 100 MW. Some distribution generation technologies can produce electrical energy almost as efficiently as large central power plants at a compatible price with less environmental impacts.

With this continued increase and the need to integrate renewable energy sources comes the need for a smarter and more flexible power system, the emphasis in the industry being on the migration towards a smart, decentralised system. This smart grid vision defines the distribution network of the future, with new technology, automation, communications, policies and market structure all combining to improve network capacity, reliability, efficiency and overall sustainability.

The turn of the year saw the launch of the Open Networks Project which aims to lay the foundations of a smart energy grid in the UK.  The UK’s electricity network operators, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the energy regulator Ofgem and many other key stakeholders will collaborate on this project to enable the UK’s energy networks to move from their traditional role and to act as smart platforms that enable a whole range of new energy technologies that generate, consume and manage electricity to function together.

A major component of a flexible power system will be the capability to store energy.  Whilst this has traditionally been done using large-scale, centralised pumped hydro schemes, emphasis has shifted to other technologies with the primary focus currently on battery energy storage. Storage provides a larger market for local balancing, increased penetration of distributed generation and the capability to provide ancillary services to the network.

With the aforementioned changes in network structure, there also comes the need for change in the companies who control them.  The planned transition from Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) to Distribution Systems Operators (DSOs) is currently a hot topic in the industry.

Whilst DNOs currently control and maintain the distribution networks, under the DSO model the operator will have a role in actively managing local electricity generation and use, securely operating and developing an active distribution system comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible distributed energy resources. This will enable competitive access to markets and optimal use of distributed resources on distribution networks.

For energy industry professionals wishing to get up to speed on distributed generation, the IET’s annual established (since 2003) comprehensive course on distributed generation is available for either individuals or teams and takes place on 7-9 November in Glasgow, Scotland.

September 4th 2018
EU Supports Denmark’s Drive Towards 50% Energy Sourcing From Renewables By 2030

The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules, three schemes to support electricity production from wind and solar in Denmark in 2018 and 2019. The Renewable Energy Directive established targets for all Member States’ shares of renewable energy sources in gross final energy consumption by 2020. For Denmark, that target is 30% by 2020. Furthermore, Denmark has a goal of supplying 50% of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources by 2030 and to become independent from fossil fuels by 2050. All three schemes aim to contribute to reaching those targets.

September 16th 2018
Ingeteam Develops New Optimal Offshore Power Conversion Architecture

Ingeteam, an independent global supplier of electrical conversion and turbine control equipment, has announced that a recent in-house R&D study allowed them to work out the optimal electrical power conversion designs for offshore wind turbines up to 15 MW. The research, taking into account the complex set of parameters at play in LCoE, enabled it to develop a Medium Voltage Power Converter reaching up to the 15 MW power range. Ingeteam claims that its new design is the ideal solution for scaling up offshore turbine platforms and will present its converter and the associated research at the Global Wind Summit in Hamburg next month.

September 10th 2018
Ørsted Announces Plans For Offshore Wind Farm To Power 1 Million UK Homes

Ørsted, the largest energy company in Denmark has recently unveiled its plans for a sustainable energy solution to power more than 1 million homes in the UK when completed. The company is one of many leading organisations speaking and presenting at the 17th annual Benelux Infrastructure Forum on 21–22 November in Amsterdam. This year’s 2-day conference is the biggest yet, hosting an international gathering of industry leaders from law firms, banks, investment asset and fund managers, energy companies, insurance companies, European Commission, and engineering consultancies.

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