ABB technology keeps the lights on in La Gomera – one of the smallest Canary Islands

2014-10-27 - Flywheel-based grid stabilization solution for Spanish microgrid

La Gomera is one of the smallest Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa. With an area or approximately 70 square kilometers the circular shaped island has a 22 kilometer diameter and rises to a height of about 1487 meters (5000 feet) at the island's highest peak, Alto de Garajonay. The electricity supply to this island of volcanic origin is not connected to any grid.

Ever since its beginnings, the island has had to grapple with stability issues and adverse weather condition, which cause frequency variations every time a new electricity source is plugged in.

The island’s power system had been progressively extended over the years with the addition of new generating units as well as the integration of renewable energy sources such as wind farms and solar arrays. This has directly influenced the reliability of power supplies and the volatile nature of renewable based generation has also led to outages and even damage to equipment.

Isolated power systems like the one on the island of La Gomera find it difficult to compensate for rapid power fluctuations resulting from intermittent wind or solar power which can dramatically affect system stability. Electricity is consumed as it is generated, so supply and demand must be kept in constant balance ie. as demand increases, supply must increase proportionately.

These challenges led Endesa, a leading electricity provider in Spain, to opt for a 500 kilowatt (kW) ABB PowerStoreTM, a compact flywheel-based grid stabilization system. The system can be upgraded to one megawatt (MW) in the future as required, offering complementary services to the generation and
enabling additional renewable energy while minimizing investment.

PowerStore can absorb frequency and voltage fluctuations introduced into the system by renewable energy sources. Its inverter-based technology combined with flywheel storage capability can instantly stabilize the microgrid by very rapidly absorbing power surges from the wind turbines, or by supplying power to make up for short term lulls. Its high-speed, bi-directional inverter technology uses the voltage and frequency of the grid to determine the power support needed, significantly improving power quality.

And what does this mean for the 22000 islanders? A more stable, reliable and uninterrupted supply of clean electricity without being connected to the mainland grid.

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