Originally published on the ECOreport.
Though black-outs are common occurrences in North America, they are virtually unknown in Germany. Philip Hiersemenzel, of the Berlin-based storage pioneer Younicos, explained this is “because our grid is very strong and there are lots of fall-back options.” So what is the significance of the first European battery park to black start the grid?
First Black Start On Germany’s Grid
This experiment took place in the North German city of Schwerin. The WEMAG battery power station, developed by the Berlin-based storage pioneer Younicos, successfully restored a previously disconnected power grid.
“We tested the system on a disconnected, isolated grid, because we did not want to affect people or industry through the test. I think that is common practice and the sensible thing to do. Still we did it with real equipment and the real grid!” explained Hiersemenzel.
“The WEMAG battery plant proved that it can restore the power grid after major disruption or blackout. To date, purely conventional power plant technology has been used for this purpose,” said WEMAG board member Caspar Baumgart.
“System and supply security is a top priority for the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The total blackout of the electricity network is thus very unlikely — but we want to be prepared for the worst case, which is why we are grateful that the battery park opens a new opportunity for restoring the power supply in the worst case. Innovative black start and grid restoration methods significantly reduce the risk of damages caused by blackouts. Through its black start capability, WEMAG’s battery storage makes a significant contribution to this. Further tests with different configurations and including renewable energies can now follow,” added Christian Pegel, Minister of Energy, Infrastructure and Digitization in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
How Is This Relevant?
I asked Hiersemenzel how this is relevant. He replied:
- “It shows that batteries can be used to restore the grid — this time we used a CCGT, but the next phase will use renewable energy. The battery itself is too small to provide energy for any length of time — but, as you know well, that’s not what it’s designed to do. It’s designed to keep the grid stable — while renewable energies provide the energy. The black start takes this one (logical) step further: It basically shows, or aims to show, that we can not only keep the grid stable just with renewables (and the batteries), but also restore it quickly.
- “If with German grid stability being stellar, there are new threats to the grid — cyber- or terror attacks say. It’s just good to have an extra safety layer, in case the worst does happen.
- “Conventional black start requires lots of equipment that sits idle basically always, because — thankfully, this never happens in Germany. If batteries can do it, why not “use” them (batteries can due other stuff when not-blackstarting, because, of course, if and when the grid does go black, there’s no grid to provide system services to — and in fact the priority is to restore it. As opposed to the conventional back-up equipment which is too expensive to operate continuously).
- “Last but not least: Grid stability isn’t as strong everywhere. In fact major outages are a concern in many areas of the world. At the end of the day, our grid-start capability is “just” a piece of software — that can be used everywhere — just add battery cells”
- Network coordinator Maik Quade (middle) gets informed about the state of the scheduled circuits in the network control center. Photo by WEMAG/Stephan Rudolf-Kramer;
- The WEMAG battery park in Scherin has proved its black start capacity. Photo by WEMAG/Stephan Rudolf-Kramer;
- Happy about the success of phase 1: WEMAG project coordinator Tobias Struck (left) with his team as well as employees of Younicos and the University of Rostock. Photo WEMAG/ Stephan Rudolph-Kramer.