SEV plans to install a new battery system at its Húsahagi wind farm in October that will store energy to make up for the turbines’ unpredictable output. And through a bundle of projects with DONG Energy, Denmark’s largest power company, SEV is testing new grid technologies designed to deliver renewable power where it’s needed, when it’s needed.
In 2012, the utility installed a type of “smart grid” technology called Power Hub, a digitized system that can automatically determine how to allocate resources and power throughout a large system composed of microgrids — town or neighborhood-size operations that connect to a larger grid. At its headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark, Power Hub monitors the ebb and flow of electricity around the Faroe Islands.
If there’s a change in electricity production or a drop in power, Power Hub will reroute electricity throughout the system to keep it stable. The idea is that a large, interconnected system composed of smart microgrids will be more resilient, helping to eventually eradicate — or at least greatly minimize — blackouts.
To put Power Hub to the test, SEV and DONG Energy identified three industrial sites on the Faroe Islands that are major power consumers: HiddenFjord fish farm; a cold storage site called Bergfrost; and Kollafjord Pelagic, a fish processing facility. Anders Birke, the lead IT architect at DONG Energy, says the peak consumption of these three sites totals up to 10 percent of the peak energy consumption on the islands.
The test showed that the facilities especially benefited from a Power Hub feature called virtual inertia, which allows part of each factory to be shut off for a short amount of time without any adverse effects. By switching off power at the industrial facilities, Power Hub creates enough time to address whatever problem caused a drop in power elsewhere on the grid. (Each facility reserves the right to turn off Power Hub if it looks like the power dip will take too long to fix and affect operations.)
“It’s the combination of all the different capabilities that Power Hub has that makes it one of the world’s most advanced systems,” Birke says.
So far, the smart microgrid technology has performed well. Although Power Hub has not completely eliminated blackouts on the Faroe Islands, the lights go out less often now. SEV’s Nielsen estimates that Power Hub has prevented three full blackouts on the islands so far and has reacted to about 50 minor power fluxes. HiddenFjord is now incorporating Power Hub into a new warehouse at its smolt site.
For a long time, the Faroe Islands has languished in quiet obscurity. But perhaps the tides are about to turn. Successful projects on the Faroe Islands can inform how other small island nations, and even mainland countries, approach reliable, renewable energy. Recently DONG partnered with Schneider Electric, a French energy management company, to build on Power Hub’s success in the Faroe Islands and bring it to other remote islands around the world.
The Faroese hope this is just the beginning: They invite foreign innovation with open arms. “We are moving quite fast in the right way,” Niðristovu says. “We have the area, so just come.”
[This article originally appeared in print as "Power Island."]