Europe’s First Commercial Battery also Provides Black Start Capability

January 27, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

For the first time in Germany, a stationary battery storage system will be capable of restoring a regional electricity distribution grid in case of a major disruption of the electrical supply network. As part of the "Kickstarter" demonstration project, the 5MW battery plant operated by northeast Germany's power utility WEMAG will receive physical as well as control software upgrades. In conjunction with renewable energy assets and a gas and steam power plant, it will then be able to quickly restore the grid in case of disruption, thereby preventing damage that could cost tens of millions of Euros.

Until now, only conventional generation equipment has been used to restore power. However, in order for Germany’s energy transition to succeed, the power grid must become more independent of conventional power plants, thus requiring the development of new technical solutions for system services, such as restoration of power. The Kickstarter project partners are aiming to demonstrate such a market-ready black start solution.

Thomas Pätzold, Chief Technical Officer at WEMAG, commented: “Eighteen months after commissioning, Europe’s first commercial battery plant remains a driver for innovation. Our project once more demonstrates the wide range of use cases and income streams that intelligent battery systems can provide. The battery has already generated higher revenues than expected in the primary control market, and we’re sure that this upgrade will be another worthwhile investment.”

The Berlin-based storage specialist Younicos, which designed and built the battery plant in cooperation with WEMAG, will extend the battery system’s functionality to make it capable of black starts, full islanding mode and integrating renewables in grid restoration scenarios. Clemens Triebel, co-founder of Younicos, said: “Smart software is the key to unlocking the potential of battery storage. It enables battery plants to reliably provide essential system services such as balancing power and black start capability and island mode. This opens up new areas of application for WEMAG.”

Because daily battery and grid operation only allow for limited large area testing, the University of Rostock will provide a simulation platform to analyze disruption scenarios under realistic conditions using dynamic grid models.

In the case of a major grid disruption – or even a total blackout, grid and generation system operators need to coordinate the restoration of power at their respective levels. A multi-day blackout in WEMAG’s grid area would cause massive damage to infrastructure, leading to problems in supplying the population with basic needs.

Innovative black start and grid restoration methods can significantly decrease the risk of potential damage from blackouts. Moreover, industrial processes can be protected from costly production downtime. The Kickstarter consortium consists of the local energy utility EVSE; the Chair for Electrical Energy Supply at the University of Rostock; WEMAG AG; and Younicos. The project will receive 800,000 Euros in support funding through the “Viable Future Electricity Grids” initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and will run for three years.