One of the key aspects of sustainable energy and the transition away from the traditional supply of energy concerns the efficiency of the power grid. However, many of the technologies and developments driving the energy transition focus on smaller decentralised systems.
The Fraunhofer IAO has been asking: what will intelligent, decentralised energy management look like in the future? Using its own Micro Smart Grid and control systems developed in-house, it is exploring how to efficiently coordinate energy producers, storage systems, and consumers–as well as how to test the innovative technologies required.
By the year 2050, the majority of energy in Germany will come from renewable sources such as wind or solar power. This is according to the government’s ambitious energy policy goals, which are driven by various well-known factors: fossil fuels such as oil and gas are running out, becoming more and more expensive and are bad for the environment. The advantages of sustainable energy sources on the other hand are self-evident: they are inexhaustible, help protect the environment and act against climate change, and can offer long-term price stability.
However, completely overhauling the current energy supply system presents major challenges with respect to grid stability and security of supply, which in turn calls for new technologies and scalable solutions.
With the Fraunhofer IAO Micro Smart Grid, the institute is pursuing a decentralised approach to the coordination of energy production and consumption. It therefore guarantees local security of supply and a grid-friendly connection to primary power grids. Merging multiple micro smart grids in the future will allow energy systems to be integrated into a larger smart grid in a gradual process that keeps pace with demand.
“The centrepiece of our Micro Smart Grid is the energy management system we developed ourselves,” explains project manager Florian Klausmann.
“This system gives us the means to manage and monitor all energy providers, storage systems and consumers within the context of a variety of optimisation goals.”
Using the institute’s facilities, the research team can apply the local situation to “play out” and test future smart energy management solutions already today, including a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles with over 30 charge spots, as well as several direct current quick-charging stations with up to 150 kW of power per vehicle. What is special about this setup is that all components are operated under supervision and real-life conditions.
Another important part of the transition towards a new energy economy is harnessing innovative technologies. In this regard, the Fraunhofer IAO has developed Europe’s first hydrogen storage system based on liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC) technology. This technology bonds hydrogen molecules within a carrier oil, eliminating the need for expensive pressure storage solutions or refrigeration units for liquid hydrogen. With 2000 kWh of storage capacity, the LOHC system constitutes a viable long-term storage option for the Micro Smart Grid, connected to the power supply via a fuel cell.