Green Grid: Good News and Bad News

Wind TurbinesMore than one quarter of Germany’s energy production is now coming from renewables, solar and wind. In fact, on one particularly sunny and windy day last spring, renewable sources were responsible for more than 75% of the country’s energy production.

For environmentalists, this is fantastic news. However, the variability in energy production may be causing some problems.

Reports of intermittent blackouts, weakened voltage and damaged industrial equipment caused by a destabilized grid are common. Though there is considerable debate, the prioritization of power generated by renewable sources, which German law demands, does seem to be making it more difficult for utilities to manage variability. Several bordering countries are so concerned that they are installing switches to keep Germany from dumping excess energy when its wind turbines are generating more power than the domestic market can consume.

Work is underway in Germany and elsewhere on systems that will better store, manage and distribute electricity, with the hope that within a few decades, wind and solar might meet all of Europe’s power demands.

Until that day comes, the system will have to be patched.

High Voltage = More Carbon = Higher Costs

Ironically, one certain problem caused by the green grid is a tendency for utilities to deliver electricity at wasteful high voltages. Since renewables make it difficult to manage voltage variability, grid managers push voltage to the high side to ensure that customers don’t experience dangerous dips.

Utilities across most of Europe supply power at 230V + or – 10%, or between 207V to 253V. All electrical equipment is designed to run within that range. But it can cost between 5% and 25% more to power equipment at 250V verses 215V.

One Solution: Client-Side Voltage Regulation

Customers seeking to lower their energy usage – for cost, carbon and equipment efficiency reasons – now have a greater incentive to explore the deployment of client-side electronic voltage regulators (EVRs). Depending on local conditions, the ROI for EVRs, like those built by UST, could be realized in less than two years.

The benefits of installing client-side electronic voltage regulation include:

  • Energy savings
  • Peak reduction
  • Reduction in the production of CO2
  • Extended equipment life
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Reduction in the need for air conditioning

In addition, critical facilities that deploy EVRs will be protected from voltage events, whether caused by high winds, lightening strikes or old-fashioned human error.

Into the Future

For the next two decades at least, utilities across the globe will struggle to integrate renewable power sources. Grid stability, not power optimization, will be their priority. Concerned managers at critical facilities can take control by installing client-side voltage regulation.


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