On November 19th, FEN Research Campus celebrated the inauguration of their medium-voltage direct current (MVDC) research grid, together with our partners from RWTH Aachen University and industry as well as guests of honor and press. This unique test infrastructure on Campus Melaten marks a big step for FEN Research Campus towards the energy transition.
A sustainable, reliable and affordable energy supply of the future – this is the vision of Flexible Electrical Networks (FEN) Research Campus, which also brought forth the lighthouse project of a multi-terminal MVDC research grid. Unlike conventional alternating current (AC) grids, the commissioned grid operates with direct current (DC) – thus, less components are required and higher efficiencies can be achieved. Particularly, with the integration of fluctuating renewable energy sources such as wind or solar energy, these advantages come to fruition, since these systems operate with DC and hence the conversion to AC is omitted. In addition, the key components for DC distribution grids use far less material than conventional 50 Hz systems. The novel DC grid can cope with such fluctuations much better and balance them. Furthermore, it requires less material and can efficiently feed in more electric power.
On November 19th, the MVDC research grid was inaugurated after a five-year planning and construction phase. Besides our RWTH and industry consortium as well as the WDR television network, our guests of honor were Manfred Nettekoven, chancellor of the RWTH Aachen University, and Frank Schäfer, leader of the topic area grid and storage systems at the EnergyAgency.NRW. Together with our industry partners Thierry Belgrand, Senior Expert for Strategic Business Development at thyssenkrupp Electrical Steel, Robert Heiliger, Project Manager at E.ON, and Björn Riemer, Head of Simulation at Schaffner Group, Prof. Rik De Doncker, director of the E.ON Energy Research Center (E.ON ERC) at RWTH Aachen University and spokesman of FEN Research Campus, officially put the MVDC research grid into operation.
For the next few years, the MVDC research grid will connect the multi-megawatt converter test benches of the Institute for Power Generation and Storage Systems (PGS) at E.ON ERC with the wind turbine test bench of the RWTH Center for Wind Drives (CWD). This infrastructure creates a unique test environment in which not only new DC-DC converters but also DC components, protection technology and operational management concepts can be tested. The soft-switching DAB DC converter developed and tested for the research grid forms the heart of future intelligent DC substations for DC distribution grids. Furthermore, this DC converter can be used in large collector arrays for wind and PV farms as well as in high-power, fast charging stations for electric vehicles or in industrial DC networks.