Friday, February 3, 2012

Wind and Solar Gas – A Challenging Storage Option

As you know, there is a crucial challenge with renewable power generation – wind and solar power are often generated during times when it could not be transported to the load centers! Usually generation has to stop – even the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. So, how to work around?

In November 2011 there was a big conference in Berlin to discuss a new way of storing energy: the existing natural gas network may become a cornerstone for a renewable energy system that provides huge storage, transport and distribution capacities that are hundred times larger than the electric power grid.

Electrons and gas? Yes!

The “SolarFuel” power-to-gas method could convert renewable electricity into CO2 neutral, renewable natural gas.

What does it all mean:

  • More renewable electricity could be generated.
  • Renewable natural gas stores the energy for days, weeks and months due to huge capacities in the tubes used for transportation and distribution
  • Energy is accessible everywhere and at any time.

I remember that our gas utility here in Karlsruhe buried huge tubes (some 100 cm in diameter) in the 90s – this allows to transport and store more gas (volume increases to the second of the diameter). Copper wires can transport more electric power with bigger cables – but the wires do not store more electric power ;-)

The gas storage in Germany could (if full) be tapped for some 6 month!!

The new discussion is about Hybrid Grids: Electric Power, Gas and Heat. More to come soon.

One thing is for sure: We will be challenged by a steep growing demand of Information Models to be added to IEC 61850 for the many aspects of hybrid grids. UCA (the forerunner of IEC 61850) was adapted by the GRI (Gas research institute, USA) for use by gas utilities. This effort culminated in an evaluation of UCA in a gas utility environment at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Francisco, in the 90s.

Excerpt of logical nodes (called Bricks in UCA) from the document: Integrated UCA(TM) for Gas Industry / Volume 2: Gas Industry Device Object Models.



  • Pressure monitors for inlet, intermediate and outlet gas (PMON0, 1, 2 respectively)
  • First stage pressure regulating valves (PRVL0, PRVM0 and PRVH0 for low, mid and high range valves respectively
  • Gate station flow monitors for low, medium and high flow rates (GSFL0, GSFM0, and GSFH0 respectively)
  • Gas quality monitor (QMON0):


Click HERE for the list of 6 reports from GTI (former GRI) [2000]
Click HERE to get some more information on wind and solar gas.
Click HERE for a comparison of IEC 61850 and UCA [2004].

IEC 61850 logical nodes for the gas and heat application domain could easily be defined and (if needed) standardized.

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