Rolls Commissions Microgrid Validation Center
By Jack Burke10 October 2019
Rolls-Royce has commissioned a €5 million Microgrid Validation Center for its MTU product and solution brand at the company’s Power Systems headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
The center will run simulations of microgrids of various dimensions and configurations. Microgrids are small-scale local power networks in which various energy sources and storage systems, such as solar cells, wind turbines, batteries, and diesel or gas-powered generator sets, are integrated by means of a master controller.
“Microgrids are indispensable to the energy turnaround because they reduce carbon emissions and use renewables in an eco-friendly way, yet still offer top levels of energy security,” said Andreas Schell, CEO of the Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit.
For many operators of on-site power networks – businesses and public utilities, as well as remote mines or large-scale farms – a microgrid is the ideal solution because it allows full or partial independence from the public grid. The green energy generated by the microgrid can also be fed into the public grid.
“The microgrid has a special significance for our company,” Schell said. “It’s a symbol of our evolution from engine manufacturer to provider of integrated solutions. We’ve moved far beyond the realm of the engine and now have the capabilities to supply complete system packages and cover all their operational service needs.”
Rolls-Royce also runs its own microgrid at MTU Plant 1 in Friedrichshafen. This microgrid consists of photovoltaic panels with 500 kW peak power capacity installed on the roofs of the Validation Center and a neighboring factory building, as well as gas-powered gensets, one diesel genset, and the new MTU battery container with 2 MW capacity developed in-house.
“The battery container provides a resilient store of energy from renewables and is basically the center of the microgrid. The smart controller, which we also developed in-house, determines which source of energy is best to use in terms of cost at any given time so that savings are maximized,” said Cordelia Thielitz, vice president Microgrid division.
Rolls-Royce can now generate by itself most of the power needed by MTU Plant 1 and also recovers waste heat emitted by the engines. That reduces CO2 emissions by several hundred tons per year.
These components also form an integral part of the Validation Center, where the function of microgrids individually configured to suit customer requirements can be demonstrated. Special transformers, invertors and switchgear in the new building simulate the function of other energy sources that can be integrated into a microgrid.
“This enables us to configure microgrids of various dimensions, capacities and layouts for our customers and show how they will function – also in relation to the wind and sun conditions prevailing at the ultimate location,” said Armin Fürderer, director of customized energy solutions.
Rolls-Royce said the Validation Center capabilities reflect the diverse portfolio of MTU microgrids, which includes battery containers with capacities ranging from 50 kWh to 2 MWh.
“You can increase the capacity of your microgrid more or less as you wish, by using, for example, several battery containers, a bigger photovoltaic installation, or by adding on wind turbines and larger or extra generator sets,” Fürderer said.
“We’ve recognized that the market is ready and waiting for this type of power generation,” said Schell. “Rolls-Royce isn’t jumping on the bandwagon here – it’s actively shaping the market. Our unrivalled engine expertise along with our high-tech capabilities in drive and energy systems have put us in a very strong position on the market. And we’re getting plenty of enquiries now for customers seeking tailor-made microgrid solutions, which shows we’ve got it right. We’re proud to have the Validation Center, which helps us serve our customers even better in their need for individual solutions,” said Schell.
Rolls-Royce is currently setting up another proprietary microgrid at its MTU facility in Aiken, South Carolina, USA, which will cover the plant’s electrical power demand using regenerative energy sources and make it less dependent on the public grid.