Microgrid at Italian university generates savings, knowledge

Wed, 2014-08-13 06:00 -- SCC Staff

Excerpted from Smart Grid Watch with permission from Siemens, a Council Associate Partner.

Autonomy and flexibility can support energy resilience, while also benefitting the power grid. Earlier this year, the Savona campus of the University of Genoa, Italy, opened a campus-wide microgrid -- the first of its kind in Europe. It combines both electrical and thermal energy resources, as well as thermal and battery storage. All of this technology is orchestrated by a state-of-the-art microgrid management system.

Currently this microgrid encompasses sufficient resources to supply about half of the campus' current energy needs -- and it was designed to accommodate additional resources to eventually power the campus fully.

How the Savona microgrid works

Siemens supplied the heart of the microgrid: a control room featuring the Siemens Microgrid Manager. This includes an electrical SCADA, a thermal SCADA and a centralized energy management system for the microgrid. Together these systems receive signals and data from the field and communicate with installed devices, using a Siemens gateway via wired and wireless connections.

The Microgrid Manager control system dispatches thermal and electrical generation resources as well as energy exchange with external grid, taking into account contributions from renewable resources and the weather forecast. Generation forecasting is conducted daily as well as three days in advance. The Microgrid Manager adapts in nearly real time (every 15 seconds) to actual weather conditions.

"If actual weather conditions differ from the forecast, the system can immediately optimize microgrid management," said Federico Delfino, Professor of Power System Engineering at the University of Genoa, and a leader on this project. "The Microgrid Manager understands that if there's no sun, it needs to adjust the power being produced. It gives the right set point to the gas turbine to balance the load on campus."

Claudia Guenzi, CEO of Siemens Smart Grid Division (Italy) explained: "Before the microgrid, the turbine and boilers were mostly operated manually. But now there's a central intelligence to guarantee optimum scheduling and operation of the whole energy resources installed."

Benefits on campus and beyond

The Savona microgrid will cut campus energy costs by an estimated 50,000€ per year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 120 tons annually, improve operational efficiency, and demonstrate effective control systems and strategies. But beyond that, this project is yielding considerable benefits outside the Savona campus. It's currently testing innovative microgrid energy management strategies, via the Siemens Microgrid Manager.

Delfino, who also serves as scientific lead for the microgrid project, noted that that siting this microgrid project at an engineering research university is vastly increasing the knowledge base and data about microgrids.

"This microgrid is a test bed for ongoing research, and it's getting a lot of attention." said Delfino. "Every week we get emails and visits from faculty and engineers from all over Europe. Also, everything we're learning here can be applied in the context of a smart city."

Read more about microgrids…