Faroes stage key wind trials as Dong tests its Power Hub

The Faroe islands, halfway between Scotland and Iceland, will act as a global test bed for smart grids that can integrate wind energy.

Minister of Trade and Industry Johan Dahl says the islands have some of the world’s best wind resources, but adds: “This is also one of the most difficult places in the world to integrate large amounts of intermittent, but abundant, renewable energy.”

The Faroese power system has about 30 outages a year, a third of which result in complete blackouts across the islands. About 60% of its electricity is from diesel generators; 35% from hydropower and 5% from wind, but Faroese power company SEV has deployed five Enercon turbines onshore and plans to add 13 more to take the islands’ wind capacity to 24% of total generation by 2014.

“We seem to be reaching a limit on the islands, as hydropower is nearly developed to its full potential, and solar does not seem viable,” says Dahl. “So in the short term, wind power is the only way forward if we want to increase the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources.”

Dahl says the smart-grid solution championed by Denmark’s Dong Energy and SEV is hugely important. “Through technological improvements in the grid, and more advanced turbines, there is the possibility of bringing more wind into the system.

“Flexible production and consumption, storage and smart-grid technology will play a major role.”

Dong is trialling its Power Hub system on the islands to integrate the wind turbines. It is backed by the EU’s multi-million-euro Twenties project, aimed at integrating large volumes of renewable energy into grids by 2020 without compromising reliability or performance.

Dong claims utilities can significantly cut costs by using a “virtual” power-plant system such as Power Hub. Instead of having to build costly fossil-fuel plants for back-up, it can reduce peak demand in a controlled manner.

Last month, SEV shut off one generator at its Sund diesel power plant, simulating a 10% power loss from wind turbines, which could normally cause a blackout. But within seconds, the virtual plant contacted three large fish-product companies, which instantly cut their demand.

Ireland has expressed a strong interest in using Power Hub as it drives towards delivering 40% renewable electricity in its power-generation mix by 2020.

Dahl adds that the Faroese government is looking at linking up to other electricity markets. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iceland to explore the possibility of a subsea interconnector.