System could see wind turbines defend grid from power outages

A new frequency control system could see wind turbines used to defend the national grid from power cuts, according to a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham.

On 19 June, the researchers explained that a smart system, controlling the storage and release of energy from wind turbines, would reduce the risk of power cuts and support the increase of wind energy use around the world. It works by using the variable speed of the rotors in wind turbine systems to more closely regulate the supply of power to the grid. When electricity demand is high, stored kinetic energy in the turbines can be used intelligently, ensuring the grid is kept stable.

The researchers said that they have already validated their approach in an industry-standard power grid simulator, with the University of Birmingham Enterprise applying for a patent to protect the system. They are now looking for industrial partners to explore commercial opportunities for the technology.

Lead researcher, Professor Xiao-Ping Zhang, Director of Smart Grid at the Birmingham Energy Institute, explained that with wind set to provide half of the UK’s power by 2030, it will be key to use wind farms to provide a vital safety mechanism of controlling frequency dips of the UK’s national power grid. Zhang said: “Our proposed frequency control system for wind turbines could revolutionise the UK’s power grid’s frequency control and, importantly, uses our existing infrastructure of wind turbines and it will not need additional devices and investments.”

University of Birmingham