Through our innovative FlexiGrid aggregation platform and flexible energy storage assets, we are delivering essential response services to EirGrid to ensure the Irish electricity system operates efficiently and helps facilitate higher levels of clean renewable energy.

When one thinks of Ireland, there are a few things that might immediately spring to mind. The country’s notable contributions to literature and music, its truly globe-spanning diaspora, its rugged coastline, and – of course – the unpredictable weather (which comes with the territory of being Europe’s most westerly seaboard on the North Atlantic Ocean).

And it’s the latter of these traits that is partly responsible for the island becoming increasingly associated with yet another significant feature: renewable energy.

Besides the naturally fertile conditions that are readily ripe for renewable generation – namely wind power – progress on this front has been largely thanks to a decade-long project coordinated by EirGrid, Ireland’s electric transmission system operator (TSO), as part of which SMS recently demonstrated our ability to provide essential grid services.

In response to binding national and EU targets, EirGrid’s Delivering a Secure Sustainable Electricity System (DS3) programme has since 2011 sought to address the challenge of integrating Ireland’s potentially world-leading levels of renewable generation onto its power system – setting a goal of facilitating 40% of electricity to come from renewable sources on the island of Ireland by 2020.

Though having fallen slightly short of this target, even reaching 33% – which still makes Ireland the country with the second highest wind-generated electricity share in the EU – has been no mean feat.

That is because, despite the country’s obvious generation potential, integrating large amounts of renewable power onto the grid has meant transforming the way the electricity system fundamentally works.  In short, this transformation is all about tipping the balance between ‘Synchronous Generation’ –  traditional, predictable and highly-consistent sources of electricity such as oil, coal and gas – in favour of ‘Non-Synchronous Generation’ sources like wind and solar, which are intermittent and less predictable, making them much more complex to bring on to the grid in order to meet electricity demand.

There, in a nutshell, lies the major challenge for the Irish electricity grid – and power systems the world over – to increase the penetration of renewables and reduce reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. To meet this challenge, EirGrid has needed to rely on innovative energy partners who can provide services that facilitate greater amounts of non-synchronous generation on the power system in a safe, secure and efficient manner.

Here at SMS, we’re proud to be working with EirGrid as part of the DS3 Qualification Trial Process to deliver many of these required services to the system operator, and thus contribute to Ireland meeting its national renewable energy targets.

We do this through our pioneering, cloud-based FlexiGrid aggregation platform, which we use to optimise the control and operation of flexible energy storage assets such as batteries and EVs. In the case of DS3, FlexiGrid manually or automatically responds to instructions from EirGrid or to system frequency disturbances.

Of the 14 DS3 services defined by EirGrid, through our FlexiGrid platform and remote operation of 40 flexible energy storage assets we have installed in residential properties, we are currently trialling delivery of up to six of these responsive grid solutions.

These are: Fast Frequency Response (FFR), Primary Operating Reserve (POR), Secondary OR (SOR), Tertiary Operating Reserve 1 and 2 (TOR1 and TOR2) and Replacement Reserve (RR). The faster of these responses require a reaction from us within seconds, whilst the slower “dispatched” service response times are up to 5 mins for TOR2 and up to 20 mins for RR.

So far, as part of the DS3 programme we have used our flexible storage systems – acting as a ‘Virtual Power Plant’ – to successfully deliver TOR2 following a dispatch instruction from EirGrid.

The figure above shows our delivery of over 50 kW of increased generation (export power) from 19 residential battery systems at midday on 6th March in response to a TOR2 dispatch instruction.

Whilst the above response was a test service – on average there are only circa ten response events per year – the success of this trial has demonstrated our capability to support EirGrid with the DS3 programme on an ongoing basis when real responses are required, ensuring that the Irish power system operates securely and efficiently, and importantly, helping facilitate higher levels of clean renewable energy for the Irish population to use.

Looking ahead, we’re delighted to be able to demonstrate the provision of essential services for this fantastic national programme, one that has enabled EirGrid to increase levels of System Non-Synchronous Penetration (SNSP) from 50% to 65% over the past few years. These are truly world-leading levels of renewable energy penetration on a national scale, and something Ireland can be proud of.

However, this is just the beginning of Ireland’s clean energy revolution. Over the coming years, the DS3 programme – as it continues beyond 2020 – aims to increase renewable generation to 70%  and SNSP to 90%. That’s almost three quarters of the way there to full renewable energy on the Irish electricity system.

At SMS, our mission is to deliver the future of smart energy, so we’re delighted to contribute to Ireland paving the way on this necessary path.

Who knows, in a few years’ time when you think about Ireland, the synonymous association with the colour green may have taken on a whole new context altogether.