Largest German Solar Power Storage Park
Solar Cells, Batteries, and Power Inverters in a 1-MW Plant
Which technologies will make the “Energiewende” succeed? How do we protect our lead in innovation in international competition? One possible answer can be provided by Germany’s largest solar power storage park. Solar cells, batteries, and inverters are operated together with the purpose of storing solar electricity and making it available at any time. On the occasion of the Baden-Württemberg Sustainability Days, the KIT commissioned the 1-MW facility together with its SolarWatt and Kostal Solar Electric partners.
“Innovation is a core activity of the KIT,” explains Professor Dr.-Ing. Holger Hanselka, President of the KIT. “Together with our partners, we are developing in this solar power storage park forward-looking solutions and systems configurations sustainable on a global market.”
“This new research infrastructure allows us to study, on a relevant scale, the interplay of the latest generations of solar modules, power converters, and lithium-ion batteries,” explains KIT Project Leader Dr. Olaf Wollersheim. Controlled by novel forecasting and regulation processes, the batteries store the electricity from the sun, in this way eliminating noon-time peak generation. The electricity stored can then be delivered on demand, for instance, in the evenings, at night or in the morning. Achieving a complete balance of electricity generation and demand would be an important building block for the “Energiewende.” The research facility contains a setup of more than 100 different systems configurations differing, for instance, in their east-west orientation, inclination, or technical components. Performance data are logged and analyzed continuously. Scientific evaluation will show which systems configurations are compatible with the power grid and cost-effective. “In this way, we want to make a contribution to a science-based strategy towards the goal of achieving 50% of renewable electricity generation by 2030,” explains Wollersheim. “Modern photovoltaic modules incorporating German know-how are a USP on the international market,” says Detlef Neuhaus, Managing Director of solar module manufacturer SOLARWATT. The solar module open-air laboratory contains installations of the most recent solar modules for testing energy yield and aging behavior under real conditions of operation. “Joint research with the KIT in a facility this size opens up the possibility to us to maintain our lead in know-how.”
“We are happy to be able to participate in this forward-looking project and, in this way, make another contribution towards a successful ‘Energiewende’,” says Werner Palm, Managing Director of inverter manufacturer KOSTAL Solar Electric. Power inverters are components of power electronics converting the direct current produced in solar modules into alternating current for the power grid. They are the central link and switching point connecting solar modules, batteries, and the power grid, in this way greatly contributing to grid stability despite fluctuations in input. “The new facility allows us to simulate the different requirements to be met by power inverters. This test field opens up an excellent advantage to us for innovative and commercially viable further development of our PIKO inverters. This advantage has a direct impact on our claim to provide ‘intelligent links’.”
The new solar power storage plant also produces economic benefits in addition to gains in scientific knowledge. The electricity generated in scientific operation is used on KIT Campus North to run large scientific installations. In this way, roughly 2% of KIT’s power requirement can be met in a year. A total of approximately EUR 1.5 million has so far been invested into the facility. This is offset by annual cost savings of approx. EUR 200,000 over a plant life of approx. 20 years.
The solar research park was developed and built within the Competence E KIT project. The Competence E project combines the research aspects of economic relevance, from materials for batteries to electric storage systems, in a way unique in Germany. The open technology platform for battery-operated electric vehicle propulsion and stationary power storage systems is a systemic approach towards the development of industrially applicable solutions and their production processes. Thanks to integration along the value chain, the ambitious goal is to be addressed to manufacture, by 2018, battery systems with a power density of 250 watthours/kg at costs of EUR 250 per kilowatthour. This will constitute an important step towards the “Energiewende” and in the interest of meeting the goals of climate protection: increased storage capacity of stationary stores to balance out fluctuations in renewable-energy generation, and range extension of electric vehicles in an effort to improve acceptance.
Infos: More on the Competence E project can be found under www.competence-e.kit.edu