Acciona Finds Variable Wind Power Can Help Balance Spanish Grid

  • Developer applied to act as backup electricity supplier
  • Generation able to rise by 400 megawatts in five minutes

Acciona SA is seeking to use wind farms to balance the Spanish national grid in times of peak demand, a job that’s typically done by fossil-fuel or hydropower plants.

The Alcobendas, Spain-based company is in a trial phase to be accredited by the Spanish grid operator to act as a backup power supplier, able to deliver extra capacity of 1 gigawatt, it said in an e-mailed statement. The renewable energy developer has about 5 gigawatts of wind power installed in the country.

“Getting wind to provide upwards regulation is an important step to integrating renewables,” said Monne Depraetere, analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The issue is that is requires curtailing wind farms so they can increase output at any given time, meaning other plants such as gas or coal plants need to run instead of wind, which is generally more costly.”

Power flows from wind and solar farms are marked by intermittent surges of power during especially sunny and breezy weather. Grid operators are working to integrate those variable power flows into a grid designed to handle steady baseload generators fired by natural gas and coal.

Backup Source

While using wind energy as a backup source is unusual, it’s not the first time that it is being used to help balance the system, according to Depraetere. In Texas, grid operators use wind farms to balance supply and demand. There, it’s the grid operator who has control, while Spain’s power plant providers volunteer to provide flows.

“This upward regulation will mostly happen in more extreme cases, such as when you have too much wind to start with,” Depraetere said. Other potential countries could be Denmark, Ireland and the U.K. which have ample wind resources and developed industries.

Wind farms managed by Acciona were able to increase their generation by 400 megawatts in about five minutes during tests.

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