ABB’s integrated technology will stabilise the power grid as Spanish islands transition to green energy

Red Eléctrica, the Redeia company responsible for the transmission and operation of the Spanish electricity system (TSO), has awarded ABB four orders for synchronous condensers (also known as synchronous compensators or SC) to strengthen the electricity grid, increase the quality of supply and boost the energy transition of the Canary and Balearic Islands.

The integrated solution, which also includes electrical and automation equipment, will play a vital role in maintaining the stability, reliability and continuity of island grids as they integrate increasing levels of renewable energy to meet Spain’s energy transition goals. The order was booked in the first quarter of 2024. Financial details were not disclosed.

The project is part of the Network Development Plan 2021 – 2026, the execution of which will allow the integration of 67 percent of renewable energy into the generation mix, advancing the objectives of Spain’s 2021-2030 Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (Spanish PNIEC). The PNIEC[1] aims for a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to 1990 and an 81 percent penetration of renewable energy resources in the electricity system. According to data from Red Eléctrica, renewable energies exceeded 50 percent of the Spanish generation mix in 2023.

The advance of the energy transition in both archipelagos poses a challenge for the system operator which makes it necessary to reinforce the grid to maintain its balance and ensure reliable and resilient operations. ABB is collaborating with Red Eléctrica to deploy a flexible, reliable, and integrated solution through synchronous condensers.

These are rotating electrical machines that mimic the operation of large generators to help stabilize the grid when loads and renewable energy production fluctuate. Services provided by SCs include inertia, short-circuit current and reactive power for voltage regulation.

“We are working to ensure a safer, more secure, robust, smarter and interconnected power grid, ready for the challenge of the energy transition, especially in our island grids. Synchronous compensators are an ideal solution in island systems, providing technical capabilities that are essential to maintain security of supply in the islands, allowing further progress in the integration of renewable energies to achieve the established objectives,” said Juan Bola, Director of Systems Operation for Non-Peninsular Territories at Red Eléctrica. “The proposal for synchronous compensators made by ABB brings great added value with a fully integrated approach, based on an excellent technical solution and competencies.”

Three of the synchronous condenser’s orders will be deployed in the Canary Islands, where Red Eléctrica is also executing important projects to continue advancing in the energy transition, such as the Salto de Chira, or the Tenerife-La Gomera interconnection. In the Balearic Islands, where all the islands are connected to each other and to the mainland grid from Mallorca, another SC will be installed.

“Decarbonization of power generation is a vital element in the energy transition journey. The challenge is to achieve this ambition while maintaining stable and reliable power networks,” said Heikki Vepsäläinen, Division President of ABB Large Motors and Generators. “This is where synchronous condensers are set to play a key role. We are delighted to start working with Red Eléctrica on this project that will demonstrate how our technology can address the inertia challenge, as it has in other island settings.”

“Through our integrated automation and electrification solutions, we deliver productivity, reliability and energy efficiency for the low-carbon world,” said Brandon Spencer, President of ABB Energy Industries. “This is especially important for creating decarbonized power grids with the stability and reliability to absorb and transmit large amounts of renewable energy.”

ABB will provide a complete and integrated solution, ranging from initial system studies to detailed engineering of the electrical and automation equipment, installation of the synchronous condensers solution integrated with flywheel, project management and training. The ABB Ability™ System 800xA® distributed control system will also be part of the scope, as well as long-term service support. The solutions will help ensure the availability and stability of energy supplied from renewable sources.

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