Harmonisation is progressing slowly. “However, a powerful driver comes from the wind energy industry, which urgently needs code clarification and unification,” says Mushamalirwa. The operation of nuclear, fossil-fired or hydroelectric power plants can be planned and controlled in order to meet the daily load curve of the electricity demand on the grid, but the situation is not the same with power plants using renewable energies such as wind (or solar) energy, whose operation is dependent on weather conditions and can be controlled only in a limited way. There are also potential reliability concerns if a large amount of wind power trips off the grid because of grid faults. And as wind power is becoming a major generation source across the EU (a wind energy penetration level of 12 % is expected in 2020), “there is also some desire that wind contribute some grid support services such as reactive power or frequency and voltage control.”
According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), harmonised technical requirements will maximise efficiency for all parties, and should be employed wherever possible and appropriate. This harmonisation strategy will be of particular benefit for manufacturers, who will be required only to develop common hardware and software platforms; for developers, who will benefit from reduced equipment and connection costs; for consumers, who will benefit from lower costs; and for system operators, especially those who have yet to develop their own grid code requirements for wind power plants.
Alstom Grid, part of the French task force for wind farm grid connection
Gimélec, the French association for electrical equipment, automation and related services that brings together 230 companies from the electrical industry, is launching a “task force” in order to support the grid connection for wind farms in France and its interest in fair competition. “As an influential member of Gimélec, Alstom Grid will be one of the leaders of this task force, whose objective is to make the French electrical industry into a forceful lobby and have a strong voice in setting up regulatory requirements and incentives for wind power and other renewable energy plants,” says Daudi Mushamalirwa. Promoting the electrical industry’s point of view is essential to ensure that grid code requirements are comprehensive and transparent so as to avoid misinterpretation and make sure they are as explicit as possible and include clear, commonly shared definitions of the terms used for wind turbines, wind farms and other equipment. Requirements should also focus on the essential aspects of technical performance, leaving an opening for ancillary services; they should balance cost and benefits of technical performance, and generally be specified so that these can be met at minimum overall system cost. Ultimately, requirements for wind power plants should not be excessive or discriminatory.