For five years, FEN has been researching and developing innovative technologies for more efficient, sustainable and secure power grids together with its partners from RWTH Aachen University and industry. In particular, direct current (DC) technology and the inclusion of decentralized and renewable energy sources play an important role.
The past year 2019 was outstanding in several respects, as the four projects running since 2014, which include the studies on physiological and medical issues conducted by UKA staff, were to come to an end in fall and the continuation of funding for the research campus was pending.
Preparations for the application for the renewal of the research campus funding already started at the begin of 2018 with the development of the Research Agenda for a second funding phase in broadly organized workshops involving all partners of the research campus. From 2019 onwards, project outlines were developed together with interested partners. Their long-term goal is to lay the foundations for a realistic medium-term implementation of the research results in commercial products, i.e. within a period of about five to ten years after the end of the new projects.
The end of June 2019 was the deadline for submitting the so called-progress report, actually being the continuation application, to the BMBF and the project management agencies, respectively, consisting of a review of the current situation, strategy and concepts for the next five years, six project outlines and the binding commitment to long-term participation in the FEN research campus of RWTH Aachen University with 16 professorships and nine commercial partners.
In July, an inspection by independent experts followed, who were introduced to the research campus and its activities with lectures and a tour of the various research activities.
On November 19, the research grid was finally ceremonially commissioned as a result of the landmark project from the first funding phase after a five-year planning and construction phase. In addition to the RWTH and the industrial consortium and WDR television, Manfred Nettekoven, Chancellor of RWTH Aachen University, and Frank Schäfer, Head of the Networks and Storage Division of EnergyAgency.NRW, were also present as guests of honor [Fig.] Together with them and our partners Thierry Belgrand, Senior Expert Strategic Business Development at thyssenkrupp Electrical Steel, Robert Heiliger, Project Portfolio Manager at E.ON, and Björn Riemer, Head of Simulation at Schaffner Group, Professor Rik De Doncker, Director of the E.ON Energy Research Center (E.ON ERC) at RWTH Aachen University and spokesman of the FEN research campus, opened the official startup of the MVDC grid on the Melaten campus.
Only a few days later, on November 25th in Berlin, the last step to obtain the second funding phase, which could be done by the research campus itself, was the presentation of future strategy and concept to the high-ranking jury of the BMBF. This presentation was given jointly by Prof. De Doncker (PGS/ISEA), Dr. von Bloh (AixControl) as speakers and Prof. Böschen (humtec) and Mr. von Bodenhausen (EATON) as “seconds”.
Shortly before Christmas, Project Management Jülich made the hoped-for announcement, namely that the jury recommended the FEN research campus for further funding and that the BMBF agreed to the recommendation.
In January 2020, the FEN research campus finally received a call to prepare regular full proposals from the previous project outlines and submit them by the end of January 2020. This extremely demanding deadline resulted from the objective of receiving a notification of funding as early as April 1. For some of the partners, this was their first participation in such an application process. Thanks to the enormous commitment of all those involved, four of the project proposals could finally be submitted by the deadline, two followed only a few days later in agreement with the project management organization.
Unfortunately, the administrative processes were then affected by the pandemic, so that after typical additional requests from the project management organization had been dealt with, the funding decisions for all six projects applied for were finally sent by the project management organization on 1 May with only minor adjustments.
Over the next five years, in addition to independent activities, six projects with a total volume of approximately 11 million euros will be funded at the FEN Research Campus by the BMBF’s funding initiative “Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovation” with a total of 10 million euros, of which 8.9 million euros will be provided to the RWTH. The topics of these projects are:
- DC Socio-Economics (03SF0592): Niche Readiness and Market Diffusion of DC Technologies
In short, this project looks at socio-economic factors and mechanisms that are relevant for the emergence of niches in which commercially viable and socially embeddable DC technologies for electrical grids can be established, and how a market diffusion of such technologies can emerge and lead to far-reaching transformation processes.
- FlexGrids (03SF0593): Planning and Operation of Flexible Electric Distribution Networks of the Future.
FlexGrids investigates the optimized planning of DC grids with simultaneous inclusion of the medium and low voltage levels, and under this condition a comparison of DC grid technology and AC technology for an evaluation and estimation of future development priorities.
- DC-Sek (03SF0594): Control and automation of hybrid AC/DC distribution grids, under consideration of cyber physical security aspects.
In this project novel control structures and strategies are developed for different control levels of local hybrid AC/DC distribution grids, operating isolated or in connection with the main grid. Furthermore, in the future, increasingly digitalized networks will become cyber physical infrastructures for whose safety automation solutions are to be developed according to the “secure-by-design” principle.
- ESCape (03SF0595): Uniform protection architecture for DC networks at system and component level.
ESCape deals with a generally applicable protection architecture for DC networks and taking advantage of controlled fault current limitation and hybrid circuit breakers for DC networks.
- ScaLE (03SF0596): Systematic and application-wide comparison of power electronic converters and components for DC networks.
ScaLE aims at the investigation of a Multi-Application-Multi-Objective-Optimization (MAMOO) algorithm for a cross-application and systematic comparison of different converter topologies, which should lead directly to optimal design decisions in the development of power electronic converters for DC networks depending on application and specification.
- InEEd-DC (03SF0597): Integrative Coupling of Energy Carriers in the Network-bound End Supply Area with Focus on Mobility and DC-based Applications.
In InEEd-DC, a holistic view of sector coupling in the environment of neighborhoods, industrial plants, electro-mobility with novel networking opportunities of the different sectors using DC technology is carried out, whereby different pro and consumer classes as well as interactions between multisectorally coupled neighborhoods are investigated.
In the meantime, the six research projects have started and the teams have found their way into the rhythm of regular meetings for the next five years. At the upcoming consortium meeting on September 15th and 16th, the research consortium will be informed about the interim status for the first time.