The reason we need to talk about power grids

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Georg Rute, CEO

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The number one problem facing solar and wind is collapsing energy prices. Regions with good solar and wind are flooded with cheap, clean energy and prices drop. This is the biggest risk for new projects today. At the same time neighboring regions face high prices and continue to burn fossil fuels. The issue is a lack of sufficient transmission capacity.

Lack of transmission capacity

The best solar and wind resources are typically in remote locations where there are no or few transmission lines. Historically power lines were built to connect power plants and centers of demand. Most of the grid was built by the 1970’s and is thus not configured for distributed renewables.

This is also evident in the fact that renewable projects are struggling to obtain grid connections. In the US for example the average time it takes to connect to the grid has grown from 2 years a decade ago to over 5 years today (source).

The shortage of transmission capacity is already leading to solar and wind curtailment. In countries with lots of wind, congestion in power grids leads to around 10% of generated wind energy being lost. This is clean energy that is thrown away while fossil fuel plants continue operating.

Wind curtailment ratio in different countries by wind energy share, from

The energy transition is only in the beginning

The progress towards clean electricity is accelerating, with 400GW of new solar PV installations in the year of 2023 for example. But all this progress of solar and wind is still barely visible in graphs showing all of humanity’s energy consumption. Today, energy overwhelmingly continues to mean fossil fuels. There is still a long way to go towards net zero.

Solar and wind are barely visible in global energy consumption. From

The energy transition has barely started, but the grid is already struggling. To support a massive build-out of clean power a thorough reconfiguration and strengthening of the power grid is needed. BNEF estimates that $21.4 trillion needs to be invested in power grids globally by 2050 (source).

Yet in addition to the cost, it takes on average a decade to approve and build new transmission lines (source). Solar and wind developers can move much faster. The energy transition therefore is constrained by the build-out of power grids.

Dynamic Line Rating increases grid capacity by a third

What can be done now? The clearest vision comes from the German regulator in their network development plan - the NOVA principle (source). It means that the grid should first be optimized and only then reinforced or new lines built (Netz-Optimierung vor Verstärkung vor Ausbau). The quickest win is to utilize the existing assets as efficiently as possible. 

Dynamic Line Rating (DLR) is a mature technology that can unlock up to 30% more capacity from the existing grid (source). High-voltage overhead lines are fundamentally limited by the risk of overheating. Power flowing through the line heats up the conductors and each line has a maximum temperature it can tolerate. But when it’s cold or windy the same power line can carry several times more power before overheating.

Grid operators regularly calculate the amount of power that they allow onto the network. Conventional methods rely on conservative assumptions. Typically grid operators assume the worst-case scenario of a hot, sunny, windless summer day. Most of the time weather conditions are in fact not as restrictive, so conventional methods lead to significant unused capacity.

Standard DLR solutions operate by providing grid operators with real-time monitoring of the carrying capacity of their power lines. This provides grid operators with the information they need to allow more power to be transmitted over the existing lines.  

The German grid has experienced serious congestion over the past years with clean energy being in the north of the country and much of industry in the south. As a response Dynamic Line Ratings are part of the network development plan. Finland is similarly experiencing new wind generation in the north with most of demand being in the south. In the US, FERC has mandated grid operators to implement ambient-adjusted ratings by July 2025 to help utilize the grid more efficiently and reduce the price of energy for consumers (source).

Software-only solution

Grid Raven is improving Dynamic Line Rating technology by making it more accurate, resilient and scalable. With the help of machine learning our solution covers every span of the entire network, removing the need for sensors. There is no dependence on hardware so entire grids can be covered in one go. Our vision is to increase grid capacity globally by 30% by 2030.

Find out more about our solution in this link:

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