By 2050, the European Union predicts that more than 80% of its electricity will come from renewable energy sources, up from 37.5% in 2020. This scenario relies on a massive integration of non-dispatchable renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, into the European power system. At the same time, dispatchable and controllable assets such as fossil fuel thermal power plants will be decommissioned. This evolution will force grid operators and energy companies to change the way they operate.
As they do now, transmission system operators will have to ensure that enough electricity is available to keep the lights on without overloading transmission wires. This is an essential task: if the system is out of balance or the flow of electricity is destabilised, it could damage equipment or cause power failures. What will change are the sources of power and equipment that will be available to balance the system.
Using renewable assets
An increasing number of grid stability services will have to be sourced from renewable technologies such as hydropower.
Investing in R&D
Rapid and cost-effective response to unpredictable events will require investment in flexibility across the energy sector.
To encourage power operators to upgrade their assets and provide grid services when needed, the incentive structure in the energy sector will have to change.
Hydropower plants are the backbone of renewable power systems. Not only are hydropower plants able to provide baseline energy and peak power, they can also deliver the full range of services that enable the grid to be flexible and absorb energy from other sources like solar and wind. Hydropower plants can provide: fast frequency control, fast start/stop, fast transition from generating to pumping modes, high ramping rate, inertia emulation, etc.
Number of hydropower plants:
Power plants of more than 1MW installed capacity. Over 90% of all the existing and planned hydropower plants in Europe are small. Larger power plants are prime candidates for flexibility services.
Total installed power capacity:
Outside of the European Union, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland also have large hydropower capacities, which bring the total in Europe to 255,000 MW*
Share of hydropower:
Hydropower represents 15.7% of the total installed electricity capacity in the EU. France, Italy and Spain are the countries with the most hydropower capacity installed.
*source: International Hydropower Association
XFLEX HYDRO is about upgrading the capability of hydropower plants with minimal transformation and improving the quality and reliability of power in the grid. XFLEX HYDRO power plants are designed to be more flexible than traditional power plants and provide a range of services to ensure that local and regional power grids remain reliable and resilient to current and future energy supply disruptions.
Data modeling and simulations
Studies determine the feasibility as well as the short-term and long-term impact of flexibility upgrades on the equipment.
Software solutions ensure that plant and system operators make the most of the upgraded technology.
Real-life testing on operational power plants across Europe is a unique feature of the project.
Lessons learned from the project are encapsulated in public reports and practical tools for energy operators.
XFLEX HYDRO brings together nineteen institutional partners with internationally-recognised expertise to study and demonstrate the project's premise: that it is possible to extend the flexibility of existing hydropower plant, using advanced software solutions and modest technological upgrades.