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Power from renewable sources tends to be intermittent and variable, creating challenges for grid operators.

Synchronous condensers supplied by ABB provide inertia and short-circuit power to stabilize grids.

The need to decarbonize energy production is leading to increasing penetration of renewables such as wind and solar in the energy mix.

Renewable plants are generally connected via converters and rely on power electronics, and they cannot provide short-circuit power and inertia. The overall effect is to make the grid weaker and less resilient. At the same time conventional synchronous power plants with their rotating mass – which are capable of supporting the grid with short-circuit power and inertia – are being decommissioned, making the problem even worse.

“Synchronous condensers represent an old technology that’s experiencing a revival in the age of renewables,” says Christian Payerl, sales manager, synchronous condensers at ABB. “They are rather like an insurance policy for grid strength and stability. They contribute short-circuit power and inertia fully automatically – no intervention is needed. And when the excitation level is regulated, they can produce or consume reactive power and so provide voltage control, too.”

Synchronous condensers from ABB have been deployed in locations around the world to mitigate network issues and enhance the reliability of power supplies.

In Australia, wind and solar operators in some areas are turning to synchronous condensers to meet regulatory requirements for inertia and short-circuit power. In Scotland short-circuit power support is needed to compensate for the large amount of wind power capacity in the grid. Even in Germany, which has a very interconnected grid, increasing use of wind and solar power has led to a need for synchronous condensers.

The scope of supply can vary from the main components only to extensive turnkey installations. ABB can also combine synchronous condensers with STATCOMs to create hybrid solutions that support the grid with very fast response times.

To learn more about synchronous condensers and how they strengthen the grid, listen to Christian Payerl’s webcast recording “Deploying synchronous condensers to boost grid quality and resilience”