Our Vision: The Second Grid
2012 © Concept The Second Grid by Harry Stokman
"Our electrical system is the biggest asset of mankind, of which we are fully dependent. A vision is needed to secure the future of this system." (Harry Stokman)
DC accelerates the energy transition
Energy transition also needs a transition of the energy grid: Conventional or taking into account future wishes of the customer and technical developments?
The Dutch Case
The current energy networks cannot facilitate the desired energy transition from the Energy Agenda 2016 (phasing out natural gas, electric transport, PV), even with 'smart grids'. Therefore, capacity will have to be added. This can be done in the traditional way (more / thicker cables in the ground or heat networks), but by using modern technology (eg direct current) this can be done more efficiently and better for the current and future wishes of the customer. Because we are building new infrastructure for decades and we will have to increase the entire energy infrastructure in the coming years, we now have the unique opportunity to innovate.
We are already seeing initiatives from municipalities, network operators and other companies that create their own networks to meet their own needs. To prevent fragmentation of the networks, the politicians could give the network operators the control over this. The grid managers should also be instructed to investigate what the most efficient energy grid transition is for the future. We provide an example of how that could be done with a DC solution.
‘The future is electric’ --> the grid will be more intensively used
According to the energy agenda, our streets will be filled with electric cars in the coming years (1 million in 2025, 100% electrical in 2050) and our roofs with solar panels. After the phasing-out of natural gas (completely in 2050), we will heat our well-insulated houses with electric heat pumps or - where available - by heating networks.
For all these developments, we call on the local energy grid and the electricity grid: the power cables in the street and the electricity houses in the neighborhood. This network will have to be able to facilitate the increasing and changing supply and demand, without this being at the expense of reliability and efficiency. ‘Smart grid’- technology we can increase capacity and possible prevent replacing cables
'Smart-grid' techniques ensure better utilization of the networks
By shifting the electricity consumption to hours that the grid is not yet fully utilized. For example: the washing machine switches on when there is space in the net. However, these possibilities are not inexhaustible and are often limited to shifting within a day. Because of increasing electric transport, solar panels and heat pumps, the existing networks will at some point approach their physical limits. Especially during cold winter days, days with lots of sun and when many electric cars are being charged at the same time.
Traditionally, network operators are increasing network capacity by expanding existing networks with more or heavier cables and transformers and heavier connections. The conventional preconditions regarding quality and security of supply are also laid down in regulations. The question is: should we continue to do what we always did, or could we produce something that is smarter, taking account of current and future customer demand and technical developments?
A second grid to be implemented next to the existing network is future proof
The figure above shows an alternative and future-proof solution: a second network that offers extra capacity in addition to the existing network. Solar panels (or sun pans) and heat pumps from various houses are connected to this grid on top of the roofs. Down in the street, on the same cable, there are connections for charging stations for electric cars and bicycles, 5G transmitters, utility functions such as pumps and refuse containers, and lampposts. The existing network will continue to do what it is good at: providing a reliable and efficient electricity supply.
The second grid uses direct current instead of alternating steam because solar panels produce direct current and use electric cars and bicycles, 5G installations, adjustable lampposts and electric heat pumps direct current. The current situation where solar energy must be converted to alternating current and then back to direct current for charging car batteries is thus prevented.
This system therefore does not require large 'real-time' IT systems such as 'smart-grid' technologies. This makes the system less dependent on 'real time' internet, telecommunication and it is easier to consider privacy.
By connecting the direct current network in the district station to the existing electricity grid, a connection is established with the national and European electricity market. In this way, a low electricity price is also gained locally if the wind turbines at sea produce full. And the car batteries and solar cells can help if there are shortages and the electricity price rises.
Interest of investors and industry to invest in grids
Large companies of different backgrounds want to build their own energy grids: industries (automotive) see a new revenue model in the electric feeding of cars, telecom companies see an extra opportunity to recoup their investments in the 5G network and building funds see a profitable investment. Municipalities also show interest in their own network for utility functions, to which electric transport can also be connected.
- If we let all these parties go their own way, we run different risks:
- Cherry picking: only the most profitable streets are served;
- Full streets: If several parties work side by side, multiple networks are laid in parallel;
Multiplication of the number of network operators: The consolidation of network operators to seven regional grid operators that has been achieved in the last decades is canceled out again.
Political guidance is required
Because we are forced to build a new infrastructure in the coming decades as we must increase the entire energy infrastructure, we now have the unique opportunity to innovate. We are already seeing initiatives from municipalities, network operators and other companies creating their own networks to meet their needs. To prevent fragmentation of the networks, the politicians should give the network operators the control over this. The grid managers should also be instructed to investigate what the most efficient energy grid transition is for the future. We provide an example of how that could be done with a DC solution.
2012 © Concept The Second Grid by Harry Stokman. All rights reserved.
Text composed by Harry Stokman and Bart Franken.