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Fraunhofer: Storage and interconnection complementary technologies for MENA-Europe ‘Supergrid’

Energy storage and interconnection are complementary technologies, as a means of adding flexibility and keeping costs down in electricity grids, an expert from Fraunhofer ISE has said.

Teams from several related disciplines at the Germany-headquartered research institute have been conducting the Supergrid Study, an investigation of the feasibility of building an interconnected grid between North Africa and Europe since 2011. Using PV, wind and CSP, a ‘Supergrid’ interconnecting Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Europe could take both regions close to 100% renewable energy by 2050, the report says.

Furthermore, with the right support it would be feasible for the North African region to be exporting electricity across to Europe as well as covering its own demand. However, in any case the Supergrid would require political will and ambitious market design, Prof Dr Werner Platzer told sister site PV Tech. Platzer specialises in solar thermal technology and was one of the authors of a final report on the work, published last month.

The study modelled four scenarios to 2050, with varying goals on emissions reduction and energy demand. The scenarios looked at the optimisation of key technologies, with challenges that included integrating both HDVC DC cables and AC transmission, integrating energy storage and reconfiguring energy markets to value demand at a locational and temporal level.

Storage with batteries, pumped hydro or other technologies can reduce the requirement to transport electricity and evens out demand according to Platzer.

In a feature examining forecasts and views on energy storage in 2016, originally published in PV Tech Power, Haike van der Vegte, senior consultant for new energy technologies at certification and advisory house DNV GL, said likewise that interconnection and storage could work together.

“More interconnection [which has been discussed in Europe] definitely has its impact on the business case for energy storage. There are big challenges ahead of us when we deploy the kind of renewables we promised ourselves in Paris. So any way to improve the flexibility of the system is very much appreciated and necessary, including interconnection,” van der Vegte said.

Perhaps the most high profile attempt to foster regional interconnection to date has been the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) which was started in 2009, aimed at connecting the North African, Middle Eastern and European regions. The plan would have imported around 15% of Europe’s electricity demand from the south but ended in acrimonious disputes in 2013.

At the end of March, a tentative agreement to explore the possibility of a ‘Supergrid’ for Asia was announced by China’s State Grid Corporation, Korean utility KEPCO, Russia’s PJSC ROSSETI and Japanese mobile telecoms company-turned energy services provider Softbank. Meanwhile at a March event in Germany, a representative of Danish grid operator EnerginetDK mentioned Electricity Highways 2050, a tentative plan where the different regions of Europe would specialise in the most appropriate renewable resources for each region. Some are also advocating for a north-south interconnection corridor through Germany to trade off between wind from the north and solar from the south.

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