The power produced by wind farms varies due to the natural fluctuations in wind speed. With increasing contributions of wind energy in the power supply system, problems regarding its integration arise, for instance with respect to:
It is generally expected that an increasing need for balancing power will result from adding large offshore wind farms in Germany. To neutralise this effect, it is necessary to adjust the operation of the grid as a whole to the requirements of a modern mix of energy sources. In order to optimise network management – and thus the overall economic efficiency of energy supply – it is suggested to feed wind energy into the grid in a controlled manner. This would: Enable scheduling of wind electricity production (bringing increased reliability of wind energy generation and allowing for intermediate storage of excess energy) and minimise the use of balancing power (minimising the consumption of fossil fuels).
Companies and organisations with a variety of backgrounds cooperate in the research and development project HyWindBalance: scientific bodies, engineering companies and consultancies in the fields of wind energy, hydrogen technology and IT as well as financial service providers and utilities. The project is co-funded by the federal state of Lower Saxony, the European Regional Development Fund, and EWE AG.
This consortium will develop, analyse, and test a system which combines wind power with the easily stored energy vector hydrogen. Some of the main elements of such facilities are electrolysers, hydrogen storage, fuel cells, and sophisticated control units that optimise the performance of the system by means of wind power prediction and load forecasting. The main aim of this joint venture is to develop a wind hydrogen system that, in its function as a »virtual power plant«, establishes the following options for wind energy:
It is noteworthy that wind-hydrogen systems provide balancing power free of carbon dioxide.
In the medium term, it will be possible to sell hydrogen from excess wind energy to other markets than the energy sector, for example as fuel for road vehicles. Such diversification of wind energy can relieve the electricity market from excess production.