Microgrid control technology to enable greening of remote island

Power and automation technology group ABB has delivered and commissioned a microgrid control solution that enables the island of Faial in the Atlantic ocean to add more wind energy to its power mix without destabilising the network.

Faial is one of nine volcanic islands in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago located midway between Europe and North America, about 1500km from the mainland. The island of 15,000 inhabitants has an electricity network that operates as a self-contained microgrid, powered by six oil-fired generators that produce up to 17MW of electric power.

The local power utility, Electricidade dos Açores (EDA), has installed five wind turbines as part of its efforts to boost capacity by more than 25 per cent and minimise environmental impact on Faial, where tourism is an important industry.

ABB Power Systems Division head Claudio Facchin said the technology – which was developed and installed by ABB’s engineering team based in Darwin – will facilitate the control and monitoring of all the wind turbines and oil-fired generators on the island.

“This is an important function as the intermittency associated with wind energy can cause frequency and voltage fluctuations that can destabilise the microgrid and, in extreme cases, even lead to power disruptions and blackouts,” he said.

The control solution, a flagship technology of the recent Powercorp acquisition, will calculate the most economical configuration, ensure balance between supply and demand, maximise the integration of wind energy and optimise the generators so the entire system performs at peak potential.

ABB estimates the technology will save an estimated 3.5 million litres of fuel per year, which has the potential to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by around 9400 tons.

The company has previously delivered solutions to integrate renewable energy into the diesel-based power systems of the Azorean islands of Flores and Graciosa, enabling fuel savings and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

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