Smart control of heat pumps – HeatFlex expands

08.07.2020

Launched in the summer of 2018, the HeatFlex research project aims to exploit the potential for grid stabilisation that small and decentralised consumer devices can offer – if actively involved in the stabilising process. The founding project members are TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz. Following the successful cooperation and positive test results, TenneT and Bayernwerk Netz are now expanding the project. The grid operators are pleased to welcome three new project partners: the DSO Regensburg Netz as well as the public utilities Stadtwerk Haßfurt and SWW Wunsiedel.

With HeatFlex, TenneT and Bayernwerk are jointly researching the most effective integration of decentralised devices – such as electric storage heaters, heat pumps, and water heaters – into grid balancing. These flexible capacities are intended to avoid cost-intensive interventions by the TSO in the case of future grid bottlenecks. Since November 2019, the project partners have already been implementing the first concrete measures based on HeatFlex results: The heat pumps and direct heating systems connected to Bayernwerk Netz are being intelligently controlled for bottleneck prevention. Decentralised heating systems are thus partially taking over the stabilising function of fossil plants. Using ripple control technology already in place, no additional investments are required.

The increase in partners should serve to make intelligent use of even more local flexibility and to investigate further controllable, decentralised consumption units and alternative applications. The ultimate aims of HeatFlex are cost savings, reduction of grid extension, and the acceleration of the energy transition without jeopardising system security. “The intelligent control of the smallest, decentralised electricity consumption units is a small but essential element,” explains TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens, “because the many pieces of the puzzle together make up the overall picture of the energy transition”.

The research project HeatFlex is extended with three additional partners (picture: Stiebel Eltron)

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Successful tests for the HeatFlex project

15.01.2019

Volatile and decentralised energy generation is an essential characteristic of the energy future. What is at first an evident risk to grid stability, could also prove to be an opportunity for smart and flexible grid management, since small and decentralised consumption devices, if actively involved, could even help to stabilise the grid. In order to explore this potential, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz GmbH have launched HeatFlex last summer, a research project to increase the flexibility and stability of the entire transmission system.

TenneT and Bayernwerk jointly investigate how decentralised devices can be involved most effectively. The power users that HeatFlex is concerned with are, for example, electric storage heaters, heat pumps, water heaters and potentially also electric vehicles in the Bayernwerk area. They can be controlled by the DSO using ripple control. If a bottleneck in the transmission grid is to be expected, for instance due to a lot of wind power, decentralised consumption devices are used for grid control: At TenneT’s request, they will be triggered by Bayernwerk and then cease consuming too much electricity but instead supply the grid with the necessary electricity for stabilisation.

There are over 170,000 decentralised controllable devices with a total capacity of around 200MW in the Bayernwerk distribution area. A first test in summer already proved the technical feasibility of HeatFlex in cases of real bottleneck situations. It turned out that the communication between the control centres of both operators worked quickly and efficiently. “With this project, we are testing solutions for tomorrow already today. HeatFlex is one of the pilot projects with which we are investigating which decentralised flexibilities we can use in the future to stabilise the grid. These include, for example, projects with power-to-gas, with bidirectionally chargeable electric vehicles or with home storage and blockchain technology,” explains TenneT Managing Director Wilfried Breuer.

HeatFlex, the joint research project of TenneT and Bayernwerk on flexible grid control, is making progress (picture: Bayernwerk AG)

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TSO-DSO cooperation on flexible grid management

18.07.2018

Volatile and decentral energy generation is not only a concomitant of the energy transition, but also an evident risk for grid stability. Paving the way to a low-carbon energy future while ensuring the security of electricity supply is the current key challenge for many European transmission system operators (TSOs) such as the Dutch-German TSCNET shareholder TenneT, which is intensively involved in research on flexible grid management and smart grid solutions. The most recent example is “HeatFlex”, a joint project with the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz GmbH.

By mid-2019, the “HeatFlex” partners will explore to what extent the more than 170,000 existing controllable consumption devices in the area of the DSO can be used to increase the flexibility of the entire transmission system. These controllable devices ‒ for example, electric storage heaters, heat pumps or water heaters ‒ can be integrated into the grid management by means of ripple control utilising the already installed ripple control receivers.

“HeatFlex” is part of TenneT’s extensive digitisation program and the company’s strategy to actively and cost-efficiently involve smaller and decentralised flexibilities in the market. This has become necessary in order to compensate for the loss of grid stability formerly provided by large power plant capacities. Lex Hartman, executive board member at TenneT, explains: “More digitalisation and technological innovation not only secure tomorrow’s power supply, but also help to reduce additional grid extension in the future.” Currently, the TSO is conducting four other digitisation projects in addition to “HeatFlex”, including three blockchain solution pilots in Germany and the Netherlands.

TenneT cooperates with southern German DSO Bayernwerk in the HeatFlex project for flexible grid management (picture: Bayernwerk AG).

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