Pioneering Smart Grids on Gotland, Sweden

2012-07-23 - Gotland is the largest island in the Baltic Sea with a total area of 3,140 square km and a population of just over 58,000 inhabitants. It is located 90 km from the Swedish mainland and with a further 300,000 tourists visiting the Island a year, it remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

To meet the EU’s climate change target of a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, Sweden plans to increase its levels of renewable electricity production primarily through wind power. The Island of Gotland will play its part in that reduction, which means it will require more flexible and sustainable energy systems and more intelligent and efficient electricity networks than those of today, so that large- and small-scale electricity generation can complement one another.

To this end Gotland has been granted financial support from the Swedish Energy Agency for a Smart Grid research project, which in time could serve as an international model for intelligent electricity networks. Such networks will require new market models, as well as more sophisticated systems for the production and distribution of electricity, supporting a wider variety of renewable energy producers.

The project is a joint venture between ABB, Vattenfall, Gotlands Energi AB (GEAB), the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Swedish National Grid and Telvent, and will run for three years with the project kick off this September. The financial support from the Energy Agency is part of a larger project budgets into which further funding from the EU is expected.

The Smart Grid Gotland will integrate large amounts of wind and other renewable energy sources in the network while maintaining reliability

"The project will show how an existing distribution system can be upgraded to handle large amounts of wind generation. For the electricity customers of Gotland, the project will mean better quality power and an opportunity to lower their electricity bills by adjusting their electricity use through access to cheaper and more sustainable wind energy", says Håkan Gustafsson, Vattenfall’s project manager.

The smart grid is to be developed east of the island’s capital, Visby. The area has a wind farm and a distribution network made available by GEAB. The intention is to include some 30 industries and farms in the project, along with 2,000 volunteer households. These consumers, both large and small, will receive electricity tariff alerts so that they can adjust their consumption accordingly. Electricity consumers are expected to start participating in the project in 2013.

“We also plan to build two environmentally friendly transformers, an energy store with a battery that can supply 3.6 MW of electricity for five minutes, and protection and control equipment by 2014,” says Hans Gleimar, ABB’s project manager for Smart Grid Gotland. “In addition, the project includes a Smart Grid Lab, scheduled for completion in summer 2013. This research platform will be based on a computer system that can receive a huge amount of data from the existing upgraded network for storage and analysis.”

Future systems
The current Swedish grid was designed in the second half of the 1900s to transport electricity from a number of large hydro and nuclear power plants to consumers across the country.

In the future power system, a larger share of electricity production will be small scale wind and solar power, which will be connected locally to the electricity distribution networks, close to customers.

Today's grid is not adapted to the new pattern of generation. The Smart Grid Gotland will be an example of how to adapt an existing electricity network to modern conditions. The island of Gotland generates a great deal of wind power, approximately 40 per cent of all energy used on Gotland in 2012 will come from this power source. But the distribution network has bottlenecks, which may restrict the flow from turbines to consumers – to achieve this the electricity network will become more complex.

The Smart Grid Gotland project aims to develop strategies for building and operating a large-scale smart grid with a high proportion of intermittent wind power in the distribution network. It is an important step and major element in the development of a modern, sustainable society, which could be scaled up around Sweden and abroad.

Gotland is one of the smart grid projects ABB is involved in around the world covering various requirements and examining all aspects of smart grids, from e-mobility and energy storage to network management, metering and communication, distribution automation and home automation systems.

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