Searching the networks of tomorrow

18 billion euros will be invested by 2030,
To make the power grid suitable for renewable energies.
The Austrian economy also benefits from this.

From 2030, all consumers of electricity in Austria, that is, even energy-intensive industrial enterprises, must be supplied with electricity from renewable energy sources. The lofty goal leads to fundamental changes in the energy industry: “Until now, there have been only a few large power plants from which electricity constantly flows to customers, and in the future there will be feeders distributed across the entire network, from the photovoltaic system in explains Franz Strumpfel. , a spokesperson for the network division of Oesterreichs Energie and managing director of Energienetze Steiermark, the family’s home for the wind farm, which feeds electricity into the grid that supplies the grid.

Electricity needs a balance

The main challenge for the energy industry comes from physics: even in this grid with myriad producers and consumers and rapidly changing scenarios depending on sunlight, wind and consumption behaviour, electricity generation and consumption must always be in equilibrium – otherwise the grid collapses. This is possible only with automated and intelligent lines, the so-called smart grids: “Digital technologies, algorithms and artificial intelligence will automatically recognize and react to fluctuations, and self-healing networks will also ensure high security of supply in the future,” promises Strempfl . In order to achieve this, network operators in Austria have to spend a lot of money. “By 2030 we will invest ten billion euros in maintenance and another eight billion in the expansion and modernization of power grids,” according to the Strumpfel report. The windfall benefits a large part of the Austrian economy, and here, too, the industry: “80 percent of our investments are local value-added,” Strempfel emphasizes.

Local companies are happy to bless the demand: “The planned investments are very important for the entire energy technology sector and a huge push factor,” says Alexander Tollinger, head of grid integration for Austria at Hitachi Energy. One of the challenges in transforming the power grid will be the shortage of skilled workers. Hitachi Energy currently employs about 80 people in Austria: “Due to the state of the good system, the group is constantly looking for additional qualified employees,” says Tollinger.

Many search methods

Much research work is also still necessary for smart grids in the future. Austrian industry works here on internationally recognized projects. Siemens, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Wiener Netze and foreign research partners have developed LarGo! advanced. This software enables the automatic installation of software updates for switching stations, which analyze network behavior and can predict potentially problematic situations or directly intervene to regulate them. As part of the “Aspern Smart City Research” (ASCR) project, which will run until 2023, Siemens wants to develop solution concepts that make today’s distribution network infrastructure suitable for power transmission and at the same time ensure the high quality of up-to-date supply.

Scientists at Vienna University of Technology are also searching for efficient and stable smart networks at the same time. At the Institute of Power Systems and Electric Motors, Albana Ilo is working on a completely new end-to-end solution for future automated power grids. Decentralized architecture aims to provide modern networks of millions of large and small producers, storage facilities and consumers with security and reliability while at the same time committed to protecting data. Here, too, there are opportunities for the Austrian industry: “We want to develop the solution in Austria and implement it with Austrian industrial partners,” says Elo.

In a glance

In order to maintain grid balance, electricity production and consumption must balance each other. This is becoming increasingly difficult with the new energy engineering, as countless private “product consumers” are joining top professional producers. The weather-dependent generation conditions of wind and sun make things even more challenging. So suppliers rely on digital technologies that keep networks in balance almost automatically.

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