Managing wind and solar power

A European project is using intelligent networks to better manage electricity from distributed sources such as small wind farms and domestic solar panels being fed into power grids.

Renewable sources generate seven per cent of the European Union’s electrical supply, and this is set to rise, but few of them provide information on which are connected, which are in operation and how much electricity each is generating to grid-management systems.

According to project leader, Bernhard Schowe-von der Brelie from the FGH research institute in Mannheim, Germany, this increase in electricity suppliers requires a new level of communication and management systems.

The research comes under the S-TEN project to develop a generic framework for semantic web technologies. This makes networks ‘self-describing’, so each component autonomously publishes information about itself and its activity. For the power grid application, this could be a reading from a voltmeter on a wind turbine, or information on its maintenance status.

The information can be accessed through a web interface, showing what objects are currently attached to the grid and what their current condition is to enable preventative maintenance strategies. This would allow smart grids supplying a town or city from locally-generated electricity and feeding it into a wider network to be more easily and cheaply set up.

The S-TEN solution allows communication with autonomous systems and devices across any network. Other applications include monitoring components in a production line or monitoring a building’s power and heat consumption and correlating it with weather data.

Berenice Baker