Grid-Forming Inverters Explained
Due to climate change, power outages are soaring. Just in 2020 alone, extreme weather was responsible for a 73% spike in energy blackouts. And with global temperatures on the rise, rising power outages could pose obstacles for grid operators. To limit these increases, many countries are switching to renewable energy sources.
This is where grid-forming inverters come in handy to restart the grid during a blackout.
Our team explains their importance and what the future may look like for our energy grid.
What Are Grid Inverters?
Grid-forming inverters are electronic devices that can direct currents from wind and solar generation into tightly controlled waves of alternating current to deliver energy to the grid during a blackout. Essentially, they are put in place to restart the grid in the wake of an energy blackout.
This energy is quite promising but scaling it to work in large regions might prove to be quite difficult.
How Do Grid Inverters Work?
Then there is a large disturbance or outage in the power grid, conventional inverters shut power off to energy sources and wait for the signal from the rest of the grid that it is safe to turn back on. This process is called “grid-following.”
Wind and solar power accounts for a large amount of energy output and can be a great way to restart the power grid in the event of a blackout. Grid-forming inverters allow solar and wind power to restart the grid independently.
When Will They Be Available on a Larger Scale?
While still an emerging technology, researchers are working on creating small, isolated grids or “microgrids” where this technology could be first piloted before implementing on a larger scale.
In the short term, there are many opportunities to research new grid-forming hardware, software, redesign regulatory and technical standards, and develop advanced modeling techniques.
Building on these findings, proponents of grid-forming inverters envision a future where they are integrated into electric grids across the board, steadily increasing in size and capabilities within the next 10 to 30 years.
Things to Know About Grid-Forming Inverters
- Grid-forming inverters (GFM) are not new. Basic GFM functionality has been around for decades, especially for battery energy storage solutions.
- GFM solutions are not a “silver bullet”: There are significant grid limitations that exist that must be considered, and our understanding of how large power systems with GFM solutions is incomplete. Protection is an important area of concern.
- Hitting current and power limitations will strongly impact their rollout: Devices that are at their maximum power output or at their maximum current behave differently, and their grid-forming capability could be compromised. Those planning to implement these systems must consider these limits before implementing them on a larger scale.
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Emerging Technologies Could Impact the Entire World
Grid forming technologies present an opportunity to improve our power system’s performance beyond what is currently possible today. One of the biggest frontiers in electrical engineering is the development and implementation of a smarter grid.
Fueled by global demand for renewable energy and alternatives to fossil fuels, gird-forming technology powered by wind or solar can stimulate stagnate economies worldwide.
Furthermore, these technologies have the potential to change the way power is delivered to consumers around the world.
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