For those of you following me on Twitter today, here's the blog post I promised on Peter Terwiesch's Technology Update at ABB Automation and Power World. The story he told was about integration. Integration of power sources into the grid, enabling the grid to host and compensate for those sources, like wind, solar and others.
Power generation creates 41% of overall emissions and there are large transmission losses from stepdown transformers and lower voltage transmission lines. Since electricity consumption is growing at about twice the rate of overall energy demand, especially in developing areas like China, it is becoming more important to look to alternate energy sources, Terwiesch said.
"Renewables," he said, "are a fast growing market opportunity." He showed some dramatic curves indicating that wind power is growing at upward of 17% CAGR while solar, or photovoltaics, is growing at twice that rate. Wind opportunities are pretty evenly split between Europe, Asia and North America, he noted. So ABB has been concentrating on the building blocks to make it easy to integrate alternate energy sources into the grid, like the new (Q3 2009) 3-PHASE solar inverter, It is this kind of device that will make the grid capable of accepting variable sources of energy.
In the developing countries, Terwiesch said, like China, it is hydropower. China's hydropower resources are chiefly in the west, while the population and the majority of electrical consumption is in the east. It is not uncommon to have transmission distances of 2000 to 3000 km, like the Xiangjiaba-to-Shanghai transmission line, which carries "more than the average consumption of Switzerland, where I live," Terwiesch said.
In the developed countries, it is wind that is the largest potential for non-fossil growth. He described the BorWin I project in Germany, which is, like many of the windfarm projects in Europe, offshore in the North Sea. "We can take care of the NIMBY effect that way," Terwiesch said, "because you can't see the windmills out there." But the BorWin I project required 200 km of undersea and underground cables to provide the 400 MW capacity of the project to a point in the grid which was robust enough to take the power. ABB had to develop a new, oil free HVDC cable for projects like these. This is the cable that Enrique Santacana announced would be made in a new $90 million plant to be erected in the US and in operation by 2012.
ABB has been developing technology in support of integration of renewables: inverters, generators and circuit breakers, as well as a system of e-mobility automobile chargers for electric vehicles. "Intermittency," Terwiesch noted, "is one of the main issues with wind and solar." You must have the ability to store energy, and connect to a wider grid to damp out energy fluctuations from intermittent power sources. To that end, Terwiesch showed the SVC Light, a Static VAR Compensator, with a storage component set up using lithium-ion batteries. The SVC Light can provide 5-50 MW from storage for 50 to 60 minutes. This acts as a great buffer against intermittency, Terwiesch said.
The so-called "smart grid" is more than moving bits and bytes, he said. It is also about moving electrons. "We are going to see a widened grid," he said as he showed a little animated slide adding islanding, voltage and load control, SVC and storage components, fault current limitation and demand-response. He described a real-world very large scale demo at the Stockholm Royal Seaport development which includes smart homes and buildings, distributed energy systems, integrated use of electric vehicles, energy storage for network support, shore to ship solutions ("so the big cruise liners don't have to keep running their engines while in port," Terwiesch noted), smart primary substations and a smart grid laboratory which is part of the Stockholm Royal Seaport Laboratory. "The Seaport's goal," according to Terwiesch, "is to be fossil-free by 2030." Terwiesch also described the Boulder, Colo., integration project done by ABB's new acquisition, Ventyx, which integrates alternate energy sources using four SVCs.
"If I could be visionary for a moment," Terwiesch said, "I would be looking for a DC overlay grid that would operate in addition to, rather than replacing the existing AC Grid, But back in the here and now, motors and drives are the greatest energy efficiency opportunity we have." He described the new ACS2000 Medium Voltage drive, which is transformerless to 6.9 KV, and noted "size reduction matters" as he described the evolution of the ACS800 small-footprint drive to the ACS850 even-smaller-footprint drive.
ABB is unique, he said, at being able to provide power electronics devices, assemblies and applications. This unified approach to protection and control is good for productivity. Which, of course, brought him to the convergence of power controls and process controls in the System 800xA. He made a very important point when he said that this combined control system provides a plant-wide Sequence of Events (SOE) recorder for the very first time. Based on open standards, the combined system is an idea whose time has come. "'But when?' you ask, and I say now." He listed 23 projects in a variety of industry verticals like Oil & Gas, Power Gen, and Mining and Minerals...but it was interesting to note that NONE of them were in North America.
Next, Terwiesch turned to new features in both software and products. He described a major new feature in 800xA v.5.1, node virtualization. This makes it possible to eliminate the proliferation of servers that used to be required in favor of a very small number of redundant servers. "It is easier to upgrade the servers this way, too," he said.
In products, he pointed to the new Optical Caliper-- a non-contact thickness gauge for paper on a web machine, and the FieldKey WirelessHART adapter.
"BASF and NAMUR tested it and found it, and WirelessHART to work quite well. But one thing we've learned is that most customers don't like the idea of having to change perhaps thousands of batteries every five years or so."
Terwiesch closed with some predictions for the future of wireless field devices. "We are entering the age of the autonomous field device," he said. "It will be powered by wind, solar, thermal gradient, and power harvested from vibration. And we can do it now. In the show display area there is an autonomous temperature transmitter, WirelessHART enabled, deriving its power from the thermal gradient from the thermowell. Go see it."