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Wind power has versatile uses

Wind power on the rise

Wind power is being built in Finland at an accelerating pace. According to the Finnish Wind Power Association's statistics, there are over 50,000 megawatts worth of wind power projects at various stages in Finland. As wind power increases rapidly, it occasionally covers a significant part of the electricity system's production. However, the production and consumption of the electricity system must be constantly balanced. Such situations pose challenges for maintaining balance.

Wind power can also be part of the solution to these challenges. At the same time, opportunities open up for more versatile use of wind power in the energy system, rather than just producing energy. Correspondingly, the economic potential for return on investment increases when wind turbines can be used for multiple purposes.

Opportunities in the reserve market

In the reserve market, Fingrid procures resources to balance the electricity system's momentary deviations. Different reserve products are used to keep the network frequency in target with up and down regulation measures. Power plants, demand side consumption facilities, and energy storages can all act as reserves. Wind turbines are also potential reserve units. As the challenges of power balance increase with renewable energy, it is necessary, if not essential, for wind power to participate in reserve market.

In a project launched by Fingrid earlier this year, the functionality of wind power in the reserve market is being tested at pilot sites. The pilot to be carried out during 2023 will involve three operators with a total capacity of 550 MW. All automatic reserve products will be piloted in the project.

Reserve products also continue to develop. For example, in 2022, the frequency-controlled disturbance reserve (FCR-D) down-regulation product was introduced in the Nordic countries. The product controls overfrequency disturbances in the network, where production exceeds consumption, and the network frequency consequently rises.

Wind power is particularly suitable for the supply of a down-regulation reserve, because the downward adjustment - i.e. for lowering the power - does not need to be separately reserved at the expense of production power. This differs from an up-regulation, where "room" would have to be left for increasing the power, i.e. the maximum production would have to be limited. There is no such problem with down-regulation. In addition, the activation of disturbance reserves is usually a short-term event and therefore does not cause a significant dent in production. These activations are also relatively rare.


Battery storage in cooperation with wind turbines

Electricity storages are also actively used to balance the frequency fluctuations of the electricity grid. Electricity storages are excellently suited to wind and solar power. Joint use with battery storage also further diversifies the use of wind turbines, either through the reserve markets or by controlling production through the battery. The battery can be used, for example, to control the momentary power produced by the power plant to the grid, either by storing part of the power plant's output or by discharging energy into the grid. This control can be done, for example, based on electricity price changes.


Power to X

There are also high expectations for Power-to-X solutions, which involve producing synthetic fuels through electricity. For example, renewable energy can be used to produce hydrogen, which can be stored, transported, and used for various purposes. If there was an oversupply in electricity production, energy can be used to make hydrogen. It is essential for the P2X process that the electricity is inexpensive and produced by renewable energy, and accordingly the end product must be valuable enough for the solution to be profitable.


The solution consists of many factors - the importance of software is increasing

Wind power can participate in the energy system's operation beyond just energy production. The reserve market offers alternatives for different ways to promote the electricity system's functionality. Battery storages can be either balancing elements or help optimize flexibility and production as part of a wind and storage hybrid solution. In the future, P2X will further diversify the pattern even more. In the future, renewable energy power plant solutions may consist of multiple interconnected systems and multiple ways to generate revenue and participate in the electricity system's operation.

The more use cases or participating components are included in a solution, the more complex its management and optimization becomes. Forecasts of the price of electricity and reserve product as well as weather conditions are some essential factors that energy management systems need to control in future hybrid power plants.

The functions are integrated with modern energy management system software, which is used to monitor the operation of equipment and above all, to take the available assets to the electricity markets, which have numerous earning options, the benefits of which varies rapidly due to the sum of many factors. Manual operation falls far short of the potential profitability achieved through automated and optimized systems. New controlling software systems have also high requirements, emphasizing information security, standardized interfaces, and easy-to-use user interface's supporting various user roles.


The author of the blog is energy expert and project manager M.Sc. Tommi Siponen

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