Bio energy is an ideal fit for every virtual power plant. The power output of a biomass plant is flexible – the plant’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit can be switched on and off rather easily. In the meantime, heat and biogas (or solid biomass like wood pellets) can be stored. This structural advantage of bio energy is already playing a pivotal role, as more and more fluctuating energies such as solar and wind power are used to meet our power demand. But this structural advantage is also something very valuable for biomass plant operators. If they are interconnected with other decentralized plants within the framework of a virtual power plant, the flexibility of their plant can be sold on balancing energy markets as ancillary reserve. Furthermore, they can increase their power production when prices on the energy exchange are high – and decrease production in times of low market prices.
Balancing energy is needed to support the grid and to avoid power black-outs. Traditionally, only conventional power plants were able to provide balancing energy. Smaller scale units such as biogas were often overlooked by the market because single units were deemed too small to provide reliable balancing energy. But in a network of units – a virtual power plant – every individual unit pitches in when needed, and the entire system takes over the role of a conventional power plant. The grid is relieved of load and black-outs are avoided. Next Kraftwerke has interconnected hundreds of decentralized biomass plants in one virtual power plant and offers ancillary services like tertiary and secondary reserves to the transmission grid operators. In fact, each month the interconnected plants are switched off for a very short period, in times of grid overload. The owners and operators of the biomass plants are paid for the downtime of their power generation from revenues from the balancing energy market.
As soon as a remote control unit – our Next Box – has been installed at the biomass plant, the plant’s flexibility is sold on the balancing energy market.
The plant receives a stand-by fee for its readiness to switch off at any time. Substrate use, fermentation processes and power generation are not affected.
In the event of grid overload, the feed-in of biomass power is reduced or stopped within minutes. The operators receive a bonus for their services from Next Kraftwerke.
Peak Load Operation
By trading the power output of the biomass plants within its virtual power plant on the spot market of the energy exchange, Next Kraftwerke also enables the plant operators to sell their product – green power – at peak prices. Traditionally, biomass plants served the base load. But operational enhancements such as better, cheaper gas tanks for biogas plants and improved CHP units, as well as increased silage prices, have made the flexible production of biogas and solid biomass power in peak load times more promising. Being a certified power trader at EPEX, Next Kraftwerke has extensive and first-hand knowledge of peak load prices and times. Thus, our power traders create an operational schedule for each biomass plant in our portfolio that wants to participate in the flexible, demand-driven production of biomass power.
The power generation of the biomass plant is aligned with power prices on the spot market of the energy exchange. Power is produced only when needed in peak load times and thus when power prices are high.