"With Black Start we play an active part in maintaining stability in the electricity grid"
Rather than weaken energy networks, can wind turbines actually contribute to grid stabilization? Simon Kristensen, Head of Software Solutions at Siemens Gamesa’s Service Business Unit, explains an exciting new technology developed in collaboration with ScottishPower Renewables that may serve to level the playing field between wind and fossil when it comes to restoring power after an outage.
This also represents a step outside of our comfort zone for the renewables industry overall. We’re acknowledging that we need to assume a larger responsibility, not just for providing green energy, but in actually running a green energy system.
Historically, turbines have just been added to the grid and they trip out once the grid is unstable. But thanks to promising new control technology like virtual synchronous control, we can now play an active part in preserving the stability in the electricity grid. If there had been greater penetration of renewables with these kinds of features in the ERCOT grids in Texas, then that would have supported the grid – no doubt about it.
From a global perspective, regulators need solutions from OEMs like Siemens Gamesa. It’s on us to develop and prove new ways to support the energy grid and simultaneously interact with regulators to come up with an energy market scheme that allows our customers to be compensated for these new services. Ultimately, renewables require a different approach than fossil-based energy production units. But I would not blame the regulators for not having the market ready yet – we have a responsibility to show them how we can be a partner in the energy transition outside the normal KWh markets.
Guiding our efforts like the North Star is the conviction that renewables must evolve to cover 100% of our energy needs going forward, and as an OEM we want to be the ones who are pushing ahead to meet this target. Black start or inertia products represent the first small steps in this direction. There are a whole series of steps involving new features and adjacent technologies that we need to develop and interact with to get to our goal.
The parts of the planet where this goal is a pressing concern will act as a showcase for regulators in the rest of the world, who are trying to figure out how we are going to design a new energy market, how we’re going to look at infrastructure, what kind of requirements need to be set up, and so on.
If we interconnect this with the hydrogen agenda, for example, we’ll need to find a way to fit all these puzzle pieces together. It’s not one way or the other, we need to evolve our thinking around the best mix. These new control features won’t solve everything. We still need storage, heat, hydrogen, batteries… all of it.
Since control systems and turbine control systems are very advanced and are embedded deep inside the turbine, we are extremely well situated as an OEM to pioneer this technology. This, bundled together with the market commitments that we are making, permits us to make a very competitive offer to our customers.
Circling back to black start, it’s worth remembering that it’s early days and we’re currently developing a technology, not a specific product that will be ready for roll out tomorrow. But it’s still terribly exciting!