CARTIF Technology Centre takes part in a new international initiative, the innovative project TIGON, which is set to demonstrate how direct current microgrids (DC) can help make the European Union’s electricity grids greener, more efficient and more resilient as the world turns to renewable energy.

Most grid infrastructure is based on alternating current (AC) as this works out easier when it is necessary to raise the signal to reach high voltages in the transmission stage. But with the rise of renewable energy, which tends to be generated and used locally, a shift away from a centralised model of electricity grid management is occurring.

Most popular renewable energy sources generate direct current output, either directly or through a power converter. As they are intermittent, their power has to be stored in batteries – again in DC. Furthermore, most modern electrical equipment such as laptops, mobile phones and LED lighting operate on DC. The question then arises: how do we draw on legacy AC grid infrastructure while generation and consumption are increasingly DC? TIGON aims to make a business case for advanced hybrid microgrids.

New technologies can enable local DC infrastructure to better integrate renewables and store electricity. Over four years, TIGON’s international team will develop a set of flexible software and hardware solutions and demonstrate them on two medium to low voltage microgrids in France and Spain. Two additional sites, in Bulgaria and Finland, will apply the findings of the demonstration cases, acting as niche markets to test replication potential.

Increase renewable energy

The two demonstration microgrids will integrate solar power, energy storage systems, electric vehicle charging points and other DC loads using highly efficient grid technologies such as solid-state transformers, DC/DC converters and energy management systems. Their modular characteristics and replication analysis will offer a roadmap toward widespread and smooth deployment of DC architectures, allowing a greater share of renewable energy sources in power systems.

The project team comprises experts from Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. They include technology developers, research centres, industrial companies and universities. In addition to novel conversion technologies, the team will also set up and test WAMPAC systems, or Wide Area of Monitoring, Protection and Control as a way of ensuring stability and security of hybrid grids.

TIGON is an exciting opportunity to provide tools and establish the structure of the power distribution grid of the future,” says project coordinator Jesus Muñoz, PhD power electronics enginner at Spanish research centre Fundación CIRCE.

The TIGON initiative is part of the EU’s broader policy of building a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

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