Innovation and sustainability even under extreme conditions: photovoltaic and wind power and storage, microgrid optimization and management exploiting big data analytics
Currently a pastoralist area, in the past Ollague used to be miners’ point of departure to get to the highest sulfur mines of the world, in Aucanquilcha region. Ollague village is situated on the slopes of the homonymous volcano, perched about 3.700 meters high within a desert plateau in Chile, on the border with Bolivia. The indigenous community of Quechua – just over 200 inhabitants – is constantly exposed to high winds and a strong solar irradiation. As often happens in villages like Ollague, situated in complex geographical areas, electricity supply was a diesel generator based one, with all the limitations that this implies, as costs, fuel availability and contaminants emissions.
In this contest, Enel Green Power (EGP) has chosen to exploit local renewable sources (solar, wind), creating an hybrid self-powered electric power plant, thanks to a microgrid which includes a solar plant and a wind power plant, interconnected with an electrical energy store system, capable of continuously providing energy to the village (24/24 h). From the lone generator set’s precarious supply, Olalgue started to benefit from greener and more sustainable energy: the plant has a 460 MWh/year production capacity and it is capable of satisfying 150 families’ warm water and electricity requirements. Energy from renewable sources compensates 85% of consumption, limiting the generator use only in particular cases.
Innovation is going along with sustainability in Ollague’s community to promote the advancement of the community itself, which, through this new energy management model, is taking responsibility for the plant and for the development of this “smart village” example in the Chilean plateau.
i-EM has achieved all of these goals thanks to the development of an intelligent platform, which is based on production forecast information and so is capable of optimally distributing the diesel generator, reducing energy waste and fossil fuel usage at the same time.
The real challenge was to satisfy both the diverse physical constraints and Enel Green Power requested specifications, as the battery limiting maximum power which needs to be balanced in the best possible way with the highest level that can be reached thanks to the available renewable sources (solar and wind power), also avoiding to switch-on the generator during the nighttime and so eliminating the usage noise.
Big data analysis
i-EM mission is to make energy management – production, storage, transferring and usage – intelligent, transforming large data sets (satellite, weather, environmental and technological) in information which is indispensable to optimize and manage energy in the more adequate, innovative and affordable way, guaranteeing consumption control and optimization.
The development of the Ollague EGP hybrid plant system has involved the usage and the integration of different data, each one characterized by different reception intervals. Some of them were made available by EGP, which has collected them on its Plant, some other from local suppliers or were collected on the spot:
- data provided by EGP about the tools power measured on-field (diesel generator, photovoltaic plant, whirlwind and storage system);
- satellite observation data;
- temperature data;
- forecast data (wind speed, temperature, etc.).
General weather forecast information, obtained through specific models development, allows to predict those that will be the production flows in the hours following, up to 3 days prior. Especially through irradiance data is possible to obtain the photovoltaic production forecast; through wind forecast is possible to predict wind the power production; then, all the environmental information set, including also temperature, is useful to estimate what will be the consumption demand. Basing on expected production, it is possible to optimally plan also the diesel generator usage.
i-EM has developed a system which allows both a local direct control of the single plant and the remote supervision of the microgrid and its hybrid plant, which includes:
- energy demand supply and forecast;
- grid stability supervision with renewable energy sources minimal fluctuations;
- forecast over a period up to 72 hours;
- hybrid plant monitoring and visualization, whit system faults indications;
- consumption data both aggregated and for single utility;
- collection on historical data and acquisition of both microgrid functioning data and electric energy consumption data;
- energy production and storage programs elaboration.
Getting a stable access to energy means improving all-around life conditions and, together with Enel Green Power, also i-EM had the chance to offer its contribution to the Ollague’s small local community sustainable development.