Project Osmose, innovation in renewables

Project Osmose, innovation in renewables

Our Group is working with 33 partners in nine different countries in a search for innovative, smart uses for the development of renewable energy by taking part in one of four European Commission-funded simulations. Two Enel plants in Italy will be directly involved


Not just smart, innovative storage systems but also aggregation platforms to stabilise grids through input from non-dispatchable Renewable Energy Sources (RES). These are Enel’s goals in the Osmose (Optimal System Mix of Flexibility Solutions for European Electricity) project, which is funded to the tune of €21 million by the European Commission through the Horizon2020 research and innovation programme call (in the context of the Grant Agreement 773406 subsequent to the LCE-04-2017 call).

Between 2018 and 2021, 33 partners from nine European nations will be involved in preparing four trials designed to identify more flexible and synergic solutions for the use of renewable energy sources. This will not just foster the latter’s integration into grids on the global markets but will also promote the project participants’ own sustainability. The organisations involved include utilities, transmission system operators, research centres and universities, an energy service provider, as well as companies and businesses of strategic value to the sector. 

Our company is already part of Osmose through Enel Green Power and Enel Produzione and, by the end of 2020, the first official trial phase, the Group’s innovative and digital product division Enel X will also be involved. We will be making two stations available for the experimental phase, and both of them are in Italy: the Potenza Pietragalla wind farm in the Basilicata region with its energy storage system, and the San Fiorano pumped storage hydroelectric plant in Lombardy.


Clean, plannable energy

Renewable energy sources such as sun, wind and water power will not be sufficient to allow us to completely move away from using fossil fuels to generate electricity, as, by their very nature, supply is not consistent. For this reason we need to find technological systems that allow us to manage the whole electricity supply more flexibly and intelligently, in order to guarantee stability even when there are very rapid fluctuations in supplies from renewables or outages on transmission lines. The frequency must be consistently kept around 50 Hz to prevent damage or problems to users. Thus far, conventional power plants have been used to guarantee that stability. 

As Gianluca Gigliucci, Head of Energy Storage Innovation at Enel Green Power, explains there are two possible solutions to the problem. The first is to allow renewable power plants across the land to participate fully in regulating the electricity system, particularly when they are connected to energy storage systems. The second involves allowing customers in general and high energy consumers in particular to adjust their consumption to meet grid balancing requirements, i.e. the so-called “demand-response” system.

"To manage a 100% renewable electricity system, we will need solutions that rapidly and precisely regulate our plants’ output to suit grid conditions. At Potenza Pietragalla, we are verifying the capacity of our renewable plants integrated with storage systems, to mimic the inertia of the rotating masses of conventional plants"
Gianluca Gigliucci, Head of Energy Storage Innovation, EGP

What the Potenza Pietragalla plant does…

Our Potenza Pietragalla wind farm was the first in Italy to be integrated with a lithium ion battery-based storage system. The farm is located in an area of the grid vulnerable to power flow management problems in high winds when the wind energy has to be offloaded from the plants in the South of Italy to consumers in the Centre and North of the country. As a result, since 2015, we have been using the battery installed in the plant to predict for each day of the year the amount of power it will feed into the grid the following day, to the benefit of the system manager. 

By the end of 2018, we will also be introducing another innovation at Potenza Pietragalla: the possibility of using batteries to provide an extremely rapid response to the frequency fluctuations that occur in the grid, mimicking the inertia of the rotating masses of conventional plants.

This functionality will be used from 2020 in an experimental project that will involve both our plant and the section of the transmission grid to which it is connected. The Terna company, the Italian grid transmission systems manager which is involved in Osmose and is coordinating this test, is doing its bit by creating an aggregation platform which will synergically manage both the regulation capacities of the renewable plants with and without energy storage, and the flexibility of certain energy-intensive industrial loads which can be managed in demand-response mode. 

The Osmose test will be unique in Italy. That said, Enel is not new to the subject of Demand-Response either. Enernoc, a company we acquired in 2016, is one of the world-leading operators in the smart and digital electricity usage management services segment.


… and San Fiorano

And in Lombardy, the San Fiorano Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Plant will act as a test laboratory to establish how plants of its kind can be used to provide “cross-border” services in what will become a single European regulation services market. The aim is to communicate virtually with a similar plant in Slovenia to transfer stored energy from one to the other, thus making available regulation capacities to whichever grid requires it most (market mechanisms will have to be defined in the course of Project Osmose).

This integration process has already yielded good results on the so-called “day before markets” because they establish a priori the contribution of each plant as a function of the energy requirements of the following day. Actual renewable consumption and availability, as well as problems that can crop up in the grid or generation plants do, however, make real-time management of the grid’s balance necessary through regulation services markets which, apart from a few rare exceptions, are currently quite diverse and independent across the various countries in the EU.

As Silvia Olivotto, Project Manager Energy Store Innovation at Enel Green Power, explains, the Osmose project also extends to trials in France and the Canary Islands, which will be carried out by other European partners and involve 6 European TSO (Transmission System Operators), which will be making the final results available by the end of 2021.

“The European Union is promoting and financing projects involving players from different countries, to develop products and create a network that will foster European competitivity on the global markets. The Osmose project is making it possible for Enel Green Power and Enel Produzione to verify in the field the services that best enhance the company’s assets in the near future, both in Italy and abroad”

– Silvia Olivotto, Project Manager Energy Store Innovation, EGP

Thanks to this project, our Group now has the opportunity to develop European-trialled technological solutions in markets such as the United States and Australia, where it has a presence and where investments have already been made in energy load management. So the future for renewables looks set to be not just cross-border but intercontinental, to boot.