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Storage and AI could boost output from solar and wind farms – Tyndall Institute

10 Aug 2022

Ireland-based group researching how to reduce shutdowns at renewable energy plants.

The Ireland-based International Energy Research Centre (IERC) is exploring ways to reduce the amount of time that renewable energy plants – such as solar farms – have to stop producing energy, due to curtailments or constraints. The researchers will examine the full potential of PV plant and battery energy storage systems working side by side.

The IERC is an industry-led collaborative research centre in the field of integrated sustainable energy systems, and is jointly funded by the Irish government and industry members. It is one of the largest funded technology centers in Ireland, with a portfolio of approximately €5m worth of investment already underway.

If you ever driven past a wind farm on a windy day and wondered why the turbines are not spinning, the explanation may be that it is a period of “dispatch downtime”, when operators are required to stop producing renewable energy, due to curtailments or limitations with broad power systems and local networks.

In the COSTORE project, funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) at Tyndall National Institute, based at UCC, Cork, has started innovative new research to reduce this downtime by examining the full potential of solar PV power plants and battery energy storage systems (BESS) working side by side.

Amarenco Solar, one of the largest PV plant developers in Ireland, has teamed up with IERC to develop novel solutions to increase energy storage so PV plants can reduce their dispatch downtimes to zero. The benefit could be that Ireland would then produce additional renewable energy and it will also ensure PV can participate in so-called “ancillary grid services”, which are helping to deliver a secure, sustainable electricity system in the country.

Beating the shutdowns

Professor Brian Norton, the Head of Energy Research at Tyndall National Institute, commented, “the rising levels of dispatch down compromise Ireland’s power system ability to reach its renewable energy targets, increase the financial risk for renewable energy based power plant owners.

He added, “This increases the cost of renewable electricity for electricity consumers. It is, therefore, a priority to maintain dispatch downtimes at their minimum possible level. COSTORE will analyse the techno-economical challenges and develop innovative solutions to achieve the optimise the contributions from solar PV power plant in Ireland with the support of energy storage and artificial intelligence.”

Dr Shafi Khadem, PI of COSTORE, and Lead, “Intelligent Grid” Research Team in IERC, said, “We will present a bottom-up analysis of both PV plants and energy storage systems operating side-by-side starting from the selection, sizing, integration of ESS and PV plant, to the control and management for providing multiple services.

“We will look at the best possible combination of system structures to achieve zero dispatch downtime. We will also look at why plants have to stop producing energy at certain times, for instance because of limitations on the power system, over frequency, etc. Artificial intelligence(AI) techniques will play a vital role in delivering these innovative solutions.”

A design guideline for the different system components will be developed, aimed at minimizing investment cost while maximizing system flexibility and the whole system financial output supported by the business model solution. Policy and regulatory recommendations will also be made.

In supporting the project, John Mullins, CEO of Amarenco Solar, said, “As decarbonisation progresses and renewable penetration in Ireland and elsewhere increases, the interaction between renewables and storage is critical to get to Net Zero.

“In addition, the European security of supply crisis is embellishing the need for optimisation of storage on our grid as it interacts with Solar PV and other technologies. Our collaboration with the IERC on COSTORE is a research project that will assist the optimisation of energy on our grid going forward.”

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