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Smart Grids – from the drawing board to reality

Smart Grids – from the drawing board to reality

Communication and interaction between components, systems, a diversity of organisations and consumers will be key factors in influencing tomorrow’s flexible energy system. In particular, the electrical power system will be subject to a radical increase in complexity. The result will be a dynamic system in which behaviour may be difficult or impossible to predict simply by studying individual components in isolation. In order to contribute towards addressing this situation efficiently, SINTEF is carrying out a series of system-based research projects, in which we are looking into how individual components or selected concepts function and respond when they interact. Our projects range from simulations, via laboratory experiments, to demonstration projects carried out in the power grid.

The term 'Smart Grid' is used to describe the 'intelligent' power system of the future, in which a significant proportion of electricity is produced locally from variable renewable sources. Production and consumption are optimally harmonised as part of an interaction with other energy carriers in an energy system free of CO2 emissions. This vision entails a dramatic increase in complexity compared with today's power system, in which electricity is transmitted for the most part from a central production facility to the consumer, often without any significant regulation of lower voltage levels.

Achieving this energy system requires the extensive monitoring and regulation of individual components, combined with communication and interaction between components and systems. As a result, Smart Grids are often characterised as 'systems of systems'. In order to develop and operate tomorrow's grid system reasonably and robustly, we require system-level awareness of the dynamics of, and interaction between, individual components. SINTEF possesses the cross-disciplinary expertise and infrastructure needed to make a contribution towards obtaining this awareness.

In collaboration with NTNU, we are currently developing the 'Smart Grid Laboratory' which, among other things, will enable us to develop and test industrial systems and products for use in Smart Grids, as well as analyse the ways in which components interact with the rest of the grid. This will be achieved by means of integration between both the laboratory as a whole and realistic simulation models.

This work is being advanced and harmonised as part of the EU project ERIGrid with the aim of creating an integrated framework and set of procedures for the development and testing of Smart Grid components in a system. In order to enable the testing and validation of complementary systems and components, a number of European laboratories, both physical and virtual, will be coordinated and in part mutually connected.

SINTEF is also a key participant in many major demonstration projects, in which selected concepts are being developed and studied by means of tests carried out within segments of the actual power system. The recently completed EcoGrid project demonstrated a system for the market-based regulation of electricity consumption in real time on the Danish island of Bornholm, while the current FlexNett project is looking into the utilisation of flexible resources in the efficient operation of distribution grids in three selected pilot areas in Norway.

Relevant projects

Relevant laboratory