By the time local businesses and real estate developers in the region received notice that they would be denied requested transmission capacity from the electricity network, construction of many large distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, and other buildings was well underway. The developers’ first reaction of the developers was to secure their own individual energy supply systems – and despite the fact that significant amounts of solar power were planned for the roofs of each building, they would have to rely on gas and backup diesel generators as their primary power source. Most buildings would be equipped with a gas-fired power plant and virtually forced to operate as an island to meet their energy needs. To make matters worse, the congestion on the grid at Schiphol Trade Park is not only in the direction of consumption from the grid but also in the direction of feed-in (of solar energy). This means that the capacity limits of the grid have to be managed in both directions for each individual medium voltage distribution string serving the area, as well as for the main substation.
This is a joint project between STELLAR and Grid Edge Consulting. We initially looked at a wider range of possible directions for resolving the congestion issue, including the possibility of developing a private microgrid for the STP. However, based on the tight time constraints and numerous legal complexities involved with realization of a private distribution network, we decided to focus our efforts on working with the DSO, Liander to explore opportunities that would allow us to optimize use of the existing public grid infrastructure within the boundaries of current regulations. As a result of an extensive process which involved close collaboration with SADC, Liander, and the STP developers, the concept of the “Virtual Net” was born. The “Virtual Net” represented an innovative approach, spanning cutting-edge technology, new governance methods, and tailored business models in order to enable the local STP businesses share the limited available capacity from Liander’s electricity network.
Instead of each building going into operation as an island, and consequently burning significant amounts of gas unnecessarily, the “Virtual Net” solution enables all of the buildings in the area – some of which have been granted transport capacity and others which have not – to be pooled together as if they were one massive grid connection. Since buildings often use only a small fraction of the capacity which they contract, the buildings which were denied transport capacity are able to share in the “free space” in the grid – this means that up to 90% less gas would be consumed when compared to each building operating independently as an island. Spectral’s Smart Grid Platform was implemented to perform the technical magic which enables optimal utilization of Liander’s grid infrastructure. Each STP building is equipped with one of Spectral’s control modules which reads smart-meters and orchestrates behind-the-meter assets, including solar systems, batteries, and gas generators to maintain the real-time balance of supply and demand. Furthermore, the Smart Grid Platform’s financial administration module is responsible for calculating who needs to pay who, for what, when, via advanced algorithms which are connected to the data outputs of the central grid management system.