Electric Grid Balancing, Energy Sources & Decentralized Energy Exchange

ENEDEX is a decentralized energy exchange defining the next step in democratized and accessible energy trading for everyone. Let’s have a look at the problem of electric grid balancing and the related issue of gas-fired “peakers” and renewable energy alternatives.

What is “Grid Balancing”?

The amount of generated electric power in a given electric distribution network must at all times equal the amount of consumed electric power in order to maintain the electric distribution network in the state of equilibrium. The state of equilibrium is defined by the constant frequency of the alternative electric current which is, for example in Europe, defined to be of 50Hz (60Hz in the USA). When there is a surplus of produced energy input then the frequency of electric current in the distribution network increases. Taking into account that the electric power station generators are set to operate within a given frequency range, in case of grid frequency increase, there is risk of disconnection of the generators of the power stations supplying the electric power to the distribution grid. In extremis, the result is simultaneous disconnection of multiple power stations resulting in a large-scale blackout. On the other hand, when there is not enough energy injected into the grid because of, for example, sudden increase in electric energy consumption, the frequency of the current in the electric grid decreases and the risk of disconnection of the power stations’ generators increases possibly leading again to a blackout situation.

How to maintain equilibrium?

The equilibrium and thus the constant frequency of the electric current in the distribution grid is maintained by adapting the amount of electric power input to the current power demand. Most common disequilibrium situations are so-called “peak demand” hours, especially during colder and darker winter times occurring in morning and evening hours as people turn on electric appliances, heating, lights, etc. Depending on the existing energy mix in a given country or region the baseline of energy production is ensured by power plants which operate on relatively constant power output and which require relatively long time to increase or decrease the power output. For example, in France almost 80% of energy supply comes from nuclear power followed by renewable energy sources such as hydropower, solar and wind. The remaining energy sources are based on natural gas as shown in figure below.

Taking France as an example for peak hour demand, the nuclear power plants are unable to quickly increase their power output due to the intrinsic design of the nuclear reactors (recent modifications on the EDF’s French nuclear fleet have, however, reduced the power modulation times to allow for greater flexibility). The renewable energy sources are also unable to provide rapid energy inputs as they are by design fairly non-flexible (e.g. hydropower) or fairly unreliable in terms of the guaranteed energy output (e.g. wind and solar). The remaining flexible sources are therefore the combined (or single) cycle gas stations which allow for rapid fire up and quick modulation of power output to satisfy the modulating power consumption and thus maintain the electric distribution grid in balance.

On the other hand, with increasing proportion of the wind and solar energy sources the risk of an opposite imbalance situation is more and more probable. In case of sudden onset of e.g. windy and sunny conditions in a given region, the power output of the solar panels and wind turbines will peak suddenly delivering increased amounts of energy into the electric grid. Wind and solar energy sources cannot be turned on and off at will and considering that currently such large amounts of energy cannot be stored, they contribute to the risk of electric grid imbalance on the supply side.

Environmental Impact and Alternatives

The so-called “peaker” gaz power plants are by definition the plants which are intended to be operated on an exceptional basis and are thus often the oldest plants and most polluting members of the energy production fleets. These peaker power plants are therefore the priority candidate for replacement by clean and more sustainable energy solutions. One part of the solution could be increased energy storage capacities with developing battery technologies or replacement of the gas-fired power units by more sustainable hydrogen-fired power stations. The technologies for large capacity battery-storage could address simultaneously the intermittency problem due to increasing proportion of wind and solar energy while at the same time allowing for rapide energy discharge of electric power in case of winter peak demand periods. The hydrogen fuel alternative is finding its place in the aviation and automotive domain and will likely find its way into the rapid-firing sustainable peak management area. Other more sustainable alternatives may include energy from versatile smaller nuclear reactors which allow for rapid power output modulation. Whatever the alternatives is, it is clear that the electric grid balancing problems will only increase with the issues of climate change as heat waves will cause peak demand behaviors in previously moderate-climate regions and an increasing proportion of wind and solar energy sources will increase the risks of grid disequilibrium.

ENEDEX as Next Step in Energy Trading

The onset of alternative clean energy sources which are to help to phase out the polluting gas-fired “peaker” power plants, announces the onset of new alternative energy trading options. Currently, the energy trading is accessible only at wholesale level, fully inaccessible to smaller investors. New alternative energy sources will bring new opportunities when it comes to trading energy futures and option contracts related to green energy sources such as hydrogen or new flexible nuclear sources. The decentralized exchange ENEDEX will allow for revolutionary crypto-based trading of clean energy futures and options including democratization and access to trading to everyone thanks to fractional trading. Supported by cutting edge blockchain ecosystems of quantum-proof DCore and Polkadot with near-real time transactions settlements, everyone will be able to contribute to the rise of clean energy alternatives to the outdated gas-fired energy sources.

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