One of the biggest Smart Grid projects in Europe

There’s more to sustainable energy than just saving electricity. That’s why the Smart Grid EcoGrid pilot project on the Danish island of Bornholm is using Siemens technology to determine how electricity demand can be adjusted to match supply.

This childhood experience stimulated Bendtsen to appreciate the concept behind “EcoGrid”, which, with its 21 million Euro budget, is the biggest smart grid project in Europe. Bendtsen is the onsite manager of the project for Bornholm’s local power company, Østkraft. As part of the project, some 1,900 households — almost a tenth of the island’s homes — were equipped with newly developed smart switching devices from Siemens and IBM in 2013.

Every five minutes, when they receive updated kilowatt-hour prices, the devices determine how much electricity is available. Depending on the data, the devices switch electric heating systems and heat pumps in private homes on or off automatically.

 

 

 

Harmonizing Supply and Demand

The principle behind the project is simple. The price of electricity fluctuates in accordance with the volume of renewable energies. Smart control units calculate how to manage energy demand cost-effectively. As a result, electricity customers save money — and that’s not trivial in a country whose end customers pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. “But that’s not the most important factor for the electricity supplier,” says Bendtsen. “EcoGrid is primarily designed to help manage power demand intelligently in the era of environmentally friendly electricity. If we use more energy when there’s a surplus, that helps to avoid overburdening the electricity network. If too little power is available, energy use is reduced, and Østkraft buys additional electricity from the mainland.”.

 

An Ideal Test Bed for Energy-Saving Technologies

The principle behind the project is simple. The price of electricity fluctuates in accordance with the volume of renewable energies. Smart control units calculate how to manage energy demand cost-effectively. As a result, electricity customers save money — and that’s not trivial in a country whose end customers pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. “But that’s not the most important factor for the electricity supplier,” says Bendtsen. “EcoGrid is primarily designed to help manage power demand intelligently in the era of environmentally friendly electricity. If we use more energy when there’s a surplus, that helps to avoid overburdening the electricity network. If too little power is available, energy use is reduced, and Østkraft buys additional electricity from the mainland.”

An Ideal Test Bed for Energy-Saving Technologies

For years, wind energy has played a key role on Bornholm. In fact, almost half of the island’s energy demand is covered by wind turbines with a peak output of 30 MW. In Denmark, wind energy accounts for 30 percent of the total energy supply. And this percentage is set to grow. By 2020 this small kingdom plans to draw about half of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, photovoltaics, and biomass. By 2035 that percentage is expected to reach 100 percent, and by 2050 Denmark should be independent of fossil energy. Bornholm is an appropriate test case; it’s a closed system, yet it is representative of the rest of the country in terms of economy and demographics.

To date, imbalances have been compensated for by the “Bornholm Cable,” which connects the island with the grid on the Swedish mainland. According to need, power is exported or imported via this cable. However, the goal is to use the energy produced here as locally as possible in order to avoid further expansion of transport capacities, such as high-voltage transmission lines.