“Wind farms could power every home in the UK by 2030”. This sentence from former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson might sound too ambitious, but it does highlight wind power is billed as one of the key renewable power sources of the future in the transition towards decarbonization and in the fight against climate change.
Annual net wind capacity additions are expected to reach 65 GW at the end of 2020, 8% more than in 2019. Covid‑19 measures led to onshore construction activity slowing down from February to April due to supply chain disruptions and logistical challenges in many countries, but the offshore wind sector has been only mildly affected by delays. For 2021, the forecast assumes a further acceleration of wind additions to 68 GW (7.3 GW offshore).
It is an important acceleration, however achieving the Paris climate goals would require even more significant acceleration across a range of sectors and technologies and wind power should lead the way for the transformation of the global electricity sector. Indeed, onshore and offshore wind are expected to generate more than one-third (35%) of total electricity needs, becoming the prominent generation source by 2050. The wind industry therefore needs to be prepared for such significant growth and using ultracapacitors is a good way to improve some of the inefficiencies of wind power such as the lack of inertia.
Electricity grid inertia refers to the kinetic energy in the electricity grid. This energy is contained in generators and motors at power plants and factories which rotate at the same frequency as the electricity grid. The rotating machines’ mass produces inertia for the electricity grid.
Inertia is a good thing in the electricity grid. In an alternating current network, the changes in frequency show how well-balanced electricity consumption and production are at a given moment. When one changes, the frequency changes, but inertia slows this change. The differences between consumption and production appear smaller and more slowly in the frequency the more inertia there is. A power network without inertia is one that is unstable, suffers from issues of power quality, and is susceptible to blackouts.
When inertia decreases, sudden changes in frequency caused by a change in electricity consumption or production are faster and larger, meaning that it is more difficult to keep the frequency within its normal range of variation. Therefore, a surge of renewables onto a grid could cause serious problems: power being cut in certain areas in an effort to bring demand back in line with supply; and large power plants getting disconnected from the grid to prevent them from becoming overloaded.
Skeleton Technologies works with a leader in the renewable energy industry and provide ultracapacitors for its wind turbines. This customer is one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers globally. Using ultracapacitors, and particularly our SkelGrid system, allows precisely to provide synthetic inertia, stabilizing grid frequency.
Providing extra power, our ultracapacitors remove any possible frequency issues from the grid. They are the perfect solution to stabilize the grid frequency in virtual inertia applications thanks to their ability to respond to demand practically instantly. Power quality is therefore drastically improved and frequency deviations are mitigated.
Ultracapacitors are therefore a great enabler of the development of wind power, solving one of the issues that have been preventing wind farms to become more widespread globally. It is the reason why our products are attracting a lot of interest from producers of wind electricity and wind turbine manufacturers. Indeed, we have also signed this year a contract with another top renewable energy producer. Our products certainly have the potential to be used in all wind turbines and farms worldwide.