Digitally connected electric vehicles (EV) have been used to help stabilize the German power grid as part of a household based virtual power plant for the first time during their everyday use. Transmission system operator TenneT has been able to draw on the storage capacity of EVs from the sonnenCommunity to offset short-term frequency fluctuations in the power grid. EVs have been transformed from just a means of transport to becoming an active and helping to stabilize part of the energy system.
Wildpoldsried/Bayreuth, February 15, 2023 – sonnen, one of the global leaders in energy storage and networking technologies, is expanding its virtual power plant (sonnenVPP), to include electric cars for the first time. This new “power plant unit” will provide transmission system operator TenneT access to the previously unused storage capacity of EVs from connected households. After a successful test phase, this technology has now been transferred to everyday households for the first time.
EVs made by several manufacturers and owned by various households in the sonnenCommunity are being used to help grid stabilization: The first vehicles in the TenneT control area have already been integrated into the sonnenVPP and can provide so-called ‘frequency containment reserve’ (FCR). This means that the storage capacity of the EV batteries can be flexibly controlled within 30 seconds to help compensate for load changes and therefore frequency fluctuations in the power grid. Using an intelligent charging process, it will not impact on the lifetime of the vehicle’s batteries because it is not discharging.
In the next stage, sonnen intends to add another 5,000 sonnenCommunity households with an EV and a sonnenCharger to its virtual power plant. Together with the sonnenBatteries of the households, this would provide up to 80 megawatts of clean energy to the grid. TenneT has an FCR requirement of 170 megawatts.
Integrating EVs into the sonnenVPP opens up many applications for the power grid besides FCR which redefine the interaction between the energy system and EVs.
“The energy industry is on the verge of developing an ecosystem of renewable energy that can be compared to the dawning of the internet age. Renewable asssets that have been operating in isolation so far will be networked and therefore capable of realising their full potential. This is a huge step in ensuring that the energy from solar and wind power is always in the right place at the right time,” says Oliver Koch, CEO of sonnen. “By including electric vehicles in our virtual power plant and using their charging to help balance supply and demand on the grid, we are taking a huge step forward. This means that we can exploit the enormous storage potential of electric cars and thereby help to further reduce CO2 emissions.”
Tim Meyerjürgens, COO of TenneT, shared his thoughts on the power grid of the future: “For the sustainable and secure power supply of tomorrow, it is important that we keep thinking ahead of the energy transition. The integration of electric vehicles in the power grid is an important milestone as we’re responding to the challenges of using available energy in the future. The more we feed volatile, highly fluctuating wind and solar energy into the power grid, the need to create new energy storage options to achieve flexibility and stabilize the overall energy system will become greater. What today are the first e-cars and frequency containment reserve, will soon be millions of these vehicles and a large variety of services that are available for us as grid operators. We are delighted to be launching this enormous storage capacity together with sonnen.”
Rethinking the charging process – a benefit not a burden for the grid
The increase in the demand for electric mobility can present a challenge to the stability of power grids. For example, when large numbers of cars in an area are all being recharged simultaneously, this can destabilise the power grid. By successfully integrating EVs from the sonnenCommunity into the virtual power plant, sonnen is taking the lead and turning a problem into a solution.
As a result, the traditional charging process is being redesigned. The first step involves sonnen distributing the charging times of all the connected EVs evenly over an extended duration, avoiding load peaks at certain times of the day. This is based on indications from customers when their cars has been fully charged. The second step involves compensating for frequency deviations in the power grid, the specifications for which are provided by TenneT. By controlling charging behaviours in this way, it helps stabilize the power grid on two levels without creating restrictions on the use of the vehicles.
At the same time, successful energy transition in Germany requires additional storage options for electricity from clean energy sources such as wind power and solar energy. EVs have large batteries and are ideal for soaking up excess electricity quickly and safely.
For example, as part of the sonnen virtual power plant, EVs can take up excess wind power at night so they do not have to be charged with electricity from gas- or coal-fired power plants during the day.
Customers can also benefit
EV drivers can also benefit from the sonnenCommunity and the provision of frequency containment reserve. The energy system of the future will no longer be defined by kilowatt-hours but instead, the ability to deliver flexible clean energy where and when it is most needed. sonnen already offers an annual profit share in its virtual power plant as a continuous incentive for customers to participate in grid services.
sonnen is one of the world's leading manufacturers of smart energy systems and a pioneer of clean, decentralized and networked energy technologies. We are one of the fastest growing energy tech companies and we've received many internationally recognized awards including for our innovative virtual power plant. Our products and services are used by the sonnenCommunity, a collection of visionaries around the world who share our vision of clean and affordable energy for everyone. With offices located in Germany, Italy, Australia, Spain, the UK and the USA, sonnen is a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell within its Renewables and Energy Solutions division since 2019.
Shell plc is incorporated in England and Wales‚ has its headquarters in London and is listed on the London‚ Amsterdam‚ and New York stock exchanges. Shell companies have operations in more than 70 countries and territories with businesses including oil and gas exploration and production; production and marketing of liquefied natural gas and gas to liquids; manufacturing‚ marketing and shipping of oil products and chemicals and renewable energy projects. For further information‚ visit www.shell.com.
TenneT is a leading European grid operator. We are committed to providing a secure and reliable supply of electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, while helping to drive the energy transition in our pursuit of a brighter energy future – more sustainable, reliable and affordable than ever before. In our role as the first cross-border Transmission System Operator (TSO) we design, build, maintain and operate 24,500 km of high-voltage electricity grid in the Netherlands and large parts of Germany, and facilitate the European energy market through our 16 interconnectors to neighbouring countries. We are one of the largest investors in national and international onshore and offshore electricity grids, with a turnover of EUR 6.4 billion and a total asset value of EUR 32 billion. Every day our 6,600 employees take ownership, show courage and make and maintain connections to ensure that the supply and demand of electricity is balanced for over 42 million people.
Lighting the away ahead together.
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