At first glance, the major issues that our society currently faces – the fight against global warming and the billions of people striving for prosperity and development – seem to be irreconcilable. The difficult question is, how can we successfully allow energy consumption and still protect the climate? The answer is the All Electric Society. This vision of the future describes a world worth living in: where all of the energy consumption is sustainable and covered by ecological, economically efficient, renewable sources. The speed at which this vision can become reality depends on how decisively we act right now. After all, everything we need for it has already been invented.
With products, solutions, and services for electrification, networking, and automation, Phoenix Contact is a technology company that supports industry and society on the path to the All Electric Society. Sector coupling is a milestone along the way. It connects the key areas of life and work – industry, energy, infrastructure, and mobility – to form an overall system. This ensures the perfect balance between power generation, distribution, storage, and consumption. But what exactly does each station of the energy flow depend on?
Accelerate the energy revolution
When considering power generation, it pays to take a look at Portugal. Over half of Portugal’s electricity already comes from renewable energies. However, a look at the installed capacities shows that hydropower and wind power have played a key role, while photovoltaics has hardly been used. This picture is currently changing. By the end of 2021, ground-mounted systems with a total capacity of 1.7 GWp had been constructed in Portugal. Forecasts through 2030 project the construction of an additional 9 GWp. Certified feed-in controllers from Phoenix Contact enable the fast and unbureaucratic grid connection of new systems – without having to wait a long time for the certificate of grid conformity. This way, they do not only simplify but even accelerate the energy revolution. Six of the new Portuguese photovoltaic systems, among others, utilize integrated PV park management from Phoenix Contact. It collects, processes, and evaluates all incoming data in order to make operations as efficient as possible. The data loggers work using an automatic detection mode, which is why all of the systems installed in the PV park can be easily connected via plug-and-play. No configuration is required, which significantly reduces the time to startup.
Distribute power reliably
The sun and wind are carbon-neutral power sources, but they supply strongly fluctuating quantities and are not always available. To provide the required power despite these factors, high installed capacity is needed in many systems distributed across the country. As capacity is expanded, the challenges for power distribution also grow: grid bottlenecks and voltage fluctuation are expected to increase in the future. To meet these challenges, reliable options for measurement and control are more important than ever. The remote control technology from Phoenix Contact receives current and voltage measured values, as well as status and error messages, and transmits them to the grid operator's control room via remote control protocol. This way, the operator receives an accurate, current picture of the systems in the grid and can intervene if necessary.
At the same time, statistical data on the energy flows in the grid are recorded. They are an important decision-making basis for the next potentially necessary grid expansion phase. Faults in the grid can also be localized more quickly with suitable digitalization and be remedied faster via smart remote control. Supply security increases.
Needs-based energy conversion and storage
Short-term energy storage is also very important for reliable, efficient grid operation. It is necessary due to the major differences caused by both fluctuating generation capacity from photovoltaic systems and wind turbine generators and also by dynamic consumption peaks caused by charging processes for electric vehicles and heat pumps. Battery energy storage systems are the recommended solution. Unlike pumped hydroelectric energy storage facilities, they can be dimensioned and distributed as needed, independently of the geographic conditions. Phoenix Contact supplies safe connection and intelligent control technology for efficient load management and higher-level energy management.
But even in the All Electric Society, not all process and sectors can be completely electrified. Steel production and aviation are two examples. Here, power-to-X processes in which the electricity from renewable energy sources is converted into liquid or gaseous energy sources that can replace fossil fuels are in demand. Through its many years of experience in the process industry, Phoenix Contact has a comprehensive portfolio of solutions and services that can also be applied in the power-to-X industry. They include entire product series with relevant certifications in the fields of functional safety, explosion protection and cybersecurity.
Efficient use of energy
In addition to the consistent generation and use of renewable energy, reducing the demand for primary electricity and resources through efficiency measures is the key to a sustainable future. The PLCnext Factory from Phoenix Contact in Bad Pyrmont demonstrates possible and proven related applications. With only minimally invasive intervention in existing processes, overall equipment effectiveness was increased by 11 percent in 1.5 years. External black boxes were used: utility metering, data collection, and network segmentation boxes.
The open ecosystem from PLCnext Technology that was also used enables different connectivity to the signal and field levels, and to the IT or cloud level, at any time. In this way, applications for the machine learning of artificial intelligence systems to precisely meet customer requirements are possible – and with them, the simple use of enormous potential for efficiency. This is another big key step in the direction of the All Electric Society.