Flexible Electrical Networks (FEN) Research Campus

  wind farm Copyright: FEN

The increase of renewable energy technologies as new elements to traditional energy systems provides a challenge for existing network infrastructure. Existing inflexible transmission and distribution systems need to evolve into flexible, smart grids. Direct Current grids (DC grids) could possibly provide such flexibility. While DC high voltage grids offer the possibility of efficient energy distribution over long distances (national and transnational), DC medium and low voltage grids could provide efficient use of energy, particularly from renewable sources, without the need for conversion from AC voltage to DC voltage and vice versa. 

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On the basis of these advantages over current AC grids, the benefits of DC grids have been proposed as a useful and necessary supplement for the process of energy transition (“Energiewende”). With DC grids, renewable energy systems which provide DC voltage (such as photovoltaics) could be used directly by various consumers who require direct current supply e.g. for notebooks, mobile phones, LEDs or heat pumps. Currently, these consumers need to convert AC voltage into DC voltage through their mains adapters.

 

The research project Flexible Electrical Networks (FEN) Research Campus at RWTH Aachen is concerned with questions that correlate with an energy system using or based on DC voltage and DC grids. The research project started in October 2014 and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Research and Education – BMBF. It is divided in four independent research projects (P1 - P4) which focus on all aspects of DC grids including the modelling and planning, the electrical equipment and grid technologies, the control and operation systems and, finally, the design, construction and testing of the campus FEN research grid. For this purpose different institutes of the RWTH Aachen and their industry partners are working together on the research project.

  Infografic FEN Copyright: FEN  

In project “P1 - modelling, planning, conceptual design and assessment” the electro-technical and other institutes of RWTH Aachen are working together. In this way it is possible to consider not only the electro technical aspects but also to consider other aspects. These include the health effects of DC grids, the requirements of the employment market and the impacts of DC technologies on landscape and urban spaces.
Through its work packages, the Institute of Landscape Architecture is concerned with the innovation potential of DC technology in providing local renewable energy systems. Different scenarios will be examined, based upon the assumption that the local potential for renewable energy sources could be used more efficiently through interconnecting DC grids: i.e. within a more rural and locally distinctive area versus a more urban and polluted area. The study aims to show the tangible and conceptual potential of direct current technology in shaping different types of landscapes.

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