Energy: Italy/Japan agreement on electricity grids of the future and super grids


ENEA-NEDO signed memorandum of understanding for the development of a demonstration converter based on a Toshiba technology

Rome, February 24 2016  - Scientific alliance between Italy and Japan on advanced technologies for electricity grids. ENEA, the Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization), the Japan Government Agency for Energy and Technology Development, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to test and implement a state-of-the–art demonstration plant of an electrical power transmission system, also with the aim of promoting the creation of interconnected European grids (super grid).

The Memorandum was signed today by ENEA Commissioner Federico Testa and NEDO Executive Director Munehiko Tsuchiya, at the presence of Deputy Minister for Economic Development Teresa Bellanova and Japan Ambassador in Italy S.E. Kazuyoshi Umemoto, at the ENEA Headquarters in Rome.

The demonstration plant, designed by Toshiba Corporation to be set up at the ENEA Casaccia Research Center, concerns an innovative technology considered among the most promising for long-distance electrical power transmission and for promoting a new energy system based on distributed generation, use of renewables, smart grid and super grid. All this with the aim of promoting the transition to a low carbon economy and a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply system.

“With today’s agreement Italy and Japan research excellences have formed an alliance to find advanced solutions for long-distance transmission of electric power, in a broader vision of development of interconnected and integrated electricity grids in Europe –Federico Testa pointed out- It’s a major challenge, that sees the involvement of Toshiba Corporation, a global leading manufacturer with which in 2013 ENEA signed an agreement for the implementation of joint activities on smart grids, renewables and electricity storage on the grid. Thanks to its geographical position, Italy can easily become the center of a wide network going from North Africa to the Balkans and Central Europe.”

The technology

It’s the new HVDC interconnection (High Voltage Direct Current) that employs innovative multilevel converters based on VSC technology (Voltage Source Converter) and provides increased efficiency, flexibility, security and grid stability and lower environmental impact. In addition, the use of  superconducting cables will increase carrying capacity and reduce electric power losses.

The applications

HVDC-VSC systems could find application in the modernization and expansion of the underwater electric power transmission system connecting the Italian mainland, Sardinia and Corsica (the so called SACOI 3), in the offshore interconnections among wind farms and in other international projects.

“In order to ensure a low carbon future and meet the objectives of COP21-Federico Testa explained- green energy transportation and distribution networks are fundamental, that’s why innovation must be employed to strengthen existing distribution systems and widen the scope to transnational super grid. Besides creating an adequate infrastructure and technology framework, there will be the need for coordinated global policy making, if we want to make renewables the primary source of electricity in a zero - emission energy system”.

Today almost all electric power generated is in the form of alternating current and only 2% in the form of HVDC. In Europe there are about 20 HVDC interconnections and about ten are being designed.

Prototype testing

“The objective of the demonstration project –Giorgio Graditi, Head of the Photovoltaic Systems and Smart Grid Unit of ENEA, explains -is to experiment and validate advanced solutions to modernize the existing grid and integrate connections through high-power superconductors electricity systems.   The experimental results will be also integrated in a European  impact analysis with the purpose of demonstrating the applicability of the proposed solutions and their potential for replicability in the pan-European electric power transmission network”.

Following today’s agreement, at the end of the demonstration project the prototype will be managed by ENEA, which will prolong for three years the experimentation period. ENEA will carry out research and development activities also with the support of stakeholders from the research, academic and industrial sectors, possibly becoming a reference point for activities of diffusion and dissemination of results.

Creating a Knowledge Exchange Community

The Agreement with NEDO and the Memorandum with Toshiba Corporation will also facilitate the creation of a sort of Knowledge Exchange community: ENEA and Toshiba researchers will have the opportunity to acquire, exchange and gain scientific knowledge and competencies in the energy field and in other areas of mutual scientific and industrial interest as well.

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