The BREGILAB project is investigating the practical realisation of further expansion of renewable electricity sources in Belgium.

“How can we continue to encourage the penetration of renewable energy sources into the electricity grid while minimising grid investment costs and risks to the stability of the grid?” asks Frank Meinke-Hubeny from VITO/EnergyVille. “We are looking at this from a technological perspective. For example, we’re researching when is the best time to expand and modernise the electricity grid, and when we need to switch to battery storage in larger scale. Batteries are currently still expensive, so they need to be used efficiently once they have been installed.” This project is being coordinated within EnergyVille by imec.

The BREGILAB project is studying different technologies that can be used to absorb peaks in solar or wind power, or even prevent them if necessary. “The solar panels on our roofs and the wind turbines on land and at sea can create power surges that can challenge the grid,” says Meinke-Hubeny. We can protect the grid by making effective use of power control technologies (levelling off electricity generation), curtailment (temporarily switching off sources) and sufficient conversion capacity (the immediate consumption of the generated wind and solar power as electricity or heat).” Researchers are also looking at detailed weather forecasts to enable them to assess the impact of renewable energy on the grid more quickly and accurately.

Throwing away excess current

Although the focus of BREGILAB is mainly on technology, it also uses economic analyses and market models. “The cheapest energy is the renewable energy that you are using straight away, without lengthy transport through the grid and without battery storage. By focusing on this, we can avoid the need to invest in premature upgrades of the grid or in costly battery technology,” explains Meinke-Hubeny. “Take the example of the (still rare) power surges in the summer: if you intelligently control surges like these (such as by capping or curtailment), you only lose a small percentage of the generated electricity. But you could potentially gain significant savings as a result by not having to invest in the grid or in storage. These are the kinds of considerations that we are studying.”