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Published on February 2nd, 2016 | by Rob Compton


Restoring The Grid After A Blackout — Using Batteries

February 2nd, 2016 by  

In a German premiere, a grid-scale battery storage system is to provide “black start capability” – the ability to restore a regional distribution grid in the case of major disruption to the network – a service provided until now only by conventional power plants.

Younicos-SignBerlin-based energy storage and grid solutions provider Younicos announced last week that Europe’s first commercial battery park, a 5MW/5MWh system operated by the local utility WEMAG, will be upgraded to become the first battery storage system in the country capable of restoring the local grid in conjunction with renewable energy sources and a gas and steam power plant.

Some background: If an electricity transmission system suffers a partial or total shutdown, the inevitable loss of supply makes restoring the grid to normal service a big challenge. Large conventional power stations usually need a helping hand to restart in the form of power from the grid. If the grid cannot supply the necessary power, then an onsite auxiliary generator is used for a so-called black start. Power stations are then restarted one by one and progressively reconnected to the grid.

While power plants aren’t always required to have black start capability, operators are usually paid to keep the service available and can receive a fee should a black start be necessary. While the chances of even a partial shutdown are remote, the ability to restore power to the grid is essential.

The Schwerin-based battery park will now offer this service in addition to the frequency regulation it has provided until now. Younicos will “extend the battery system’s functionality to make it capable of black starts, full islanding mode and integrating renewables in grid restoration scenarios” as part of the “kickstarter” demonstration project, the company stated in a press release.

Thomas Pätzold, Chief Technical Officer at WEMAG, said: “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 project is being supported with funding from the “Viable Future Electricity Grids” initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and will run for three years.

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About the Author

has lived in Berlin since 2009. He reports on German industry, renewable energy, and transportation. An environmentalist and an optimist, Rob is always on the lookout for exciting technological developments. You can follow him on Twitter @compton_rl

  • Philip W

    I’m wondering what exactly needs to be upgraded to be able to restore power from a blackout. Isn’t that just delivering power to the power station that needs to be restarted?

    • Rob Compton

      Yes, it’s a software upgrade. But it is also the first time black start capability will be provided by a battery park in Germany. Until now, black start capability has been provided only by conventional plants. As such, this is another commercial case for grid-scale battery storage and another step towards less reliance on conventional generation.

      • Frank

        This sound to me like it would be faster than starting an auxilary generator. I like the idea of getting the service from a piece of equipment that is getting used every day, and thus getting the maintenence attention, and it sounds efficient, which I also like.

        So it sounds not just greener, but better.

  • Thanks, Rob! Exciting development.

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