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Senfal makes FCR possible

In order to speed up the energy transition, TenneT started a pilot project to gain experience in the supply of Frequency Containment Reserve (FCR) using sustainable sources like EVs, batteries and wind turbines. Senfal contributed to this project by providing technical solutions to the many challenges of supplying FCR with wind energy.

Supplying FCR using sustainable sources

It is impossible to fully predict the supply and demand of energy. This means fluctuations on the energy grid are inevitable. Currently, gas and coal power plants compensate these fluctuations. However, because these fossil fuel power plants are slowly being phased out due to the rise of solar and wind energy, new energy sources to balance the grid are necessary.

A marketplace for energy

One solution to this issue is to introduce a marketplace where energy buyers and suppliers can participate in weekly auctions to bid on energy fluctuations. By applying FCR, differences between supply and demand are solved every second; each second, small quantities of energy are supplied or withheld by gas plants in order to maintain the balance on the grid. This is what we call FCR or primary reserve. Transmission system operator TenneT is actively looking for innovative and sustainable ways to balance these fluctuations. For this reason, TenneT started a pilot project in January 2017 to supply FCR using alternative sources, like EVs, batteries and wind turbines. In effect, TenneT is preparing the energy grid for an increase of sustainable energy. 

Project FCR

Currently, many wind farms still depend on government grants and subsidies. When they expire, revenues generated by wind turbines (calculated in €/MWh) will shrink by more than 50%. That is why Senfal participated in this project by finding new ways to make wind turbines more profitable and making FCR a possibility.

Symmetric FCR supply using wind

FCR is a symmetric product, which means the installation which supplies the product has to be able to increase and decrease production. The rules which govern the asset pools are identical, but within each pool the responsibility for increasing or decreasing production can be adjusted. In order to supply symmetric FCR, turbines have to run at lower capacity than usual, otherwise there is no room left to adjust upwards. Consequently, the wind turbine manager loses a part of the capacity which could otherwise be used for production. It also means the manager misses out on SDE subsidies.

Interesting adjustment

Seeing as wind turbines are able to produce energy at very low operational costs, as long as there is wind, symmetric FCR is simply not profitable. Furthermore, Senfal believes production technologies should produce as much energy as possible, especially sustainable energy. Things do get interesting, however, when wind turbines are only used to adjust downwards (by producing less energy capacity). This means wind turbines can run at their regular capacity by default, only to be decreased when the frequency is too high.

The challenge

Senfal’s challenge in this pilot was to come up with a proof of concept for the technical supply of FCR using wind turbines. An underlying purpose of this step was to improve the business case for wind turbines. Because the business case is only interesting when the wind turbine is adjusted downwards, Senfal looked for ways to adjust other installations in the pool (like batteries and charging stations for electric cars) upwards.

The pilot

TenneT kicked off the pilot project with four different parties, including Senfal. During the pilot, Senfal cooperated with Technolution, Enexis, Fudura, Nuon, Elaad, DNV-GL, TenneT of course, and others. In order to supply FCR using wind turbines, Nuon made 4 E82 turbines from the Echteld wind farm available. They are connected to electric cars (EVs) through Elaad and Tesla Powerwalls. The pilot took place from January 2017 until April 2018.

Software for accurate forecasts

One of the requirements for supplying FCR is the ability to quickly adjust the energy production upwards or downwards to balance the grid. To make this happen, Senfal developed software to manage wind turbines in a pool with other sustainable energy sources. Contrary to wind turbines, it is preferable to charge electric cars as quickly as possible, without adjusting downwards. In other words, a complementarity exists between the technologies in EVs and wind turbines, which in turn allows for the supply of symmetric power.

“To decrease the energy supply of wind turbines and thereby supplying FCR, Senfal has built a complex mathematical model.”

To be able to decrease the energy supply of wind turbines and thereby supplying FCR, Senfal built a complex mathematical model. This allows us to make highly accurate predictions about the wind extremely quickly (within 10 seconds!). Market research has shown that Senfal beats other parties in this area. Combined with previously developed demand response software, Senfal is able to fully manage the wind turbines. The energy supplied by the wind turbines can now be dialed down in response to frequency fluctuations on the energy grid, and the quantity of supplied FCR can be determined highly accurately.

FCR technically feasible with Senfal

Senfal has demonstrated that a fast and advanced load balancing service, namely the supply of FCR, is technically possible. Moreover, using Senfal’s innovative and advanced software, FCR is not only possible, but also highly accurate. In doing so, Senfal delivered an important piece of the puzzle on the road to a fully sustainable society.