Solar power and microgrid intelligence for urban power grid

The city-wide power grid of Berbera (Somaliland) including the largest port in the region will be monitored and controlled with microgrid technology from DHYBRID (Gauting) from April 2021. In the network of the Berbera Electricity Company (BEC), two solar plants with a total capacity of 8 MW, a lithium-ion electricity storage system with a capacity of 2 megawatt hours and three modern diesel generators were combined for this purpose. This has enabled BEC to reduce the electricity tariff in Berbera, which is now the lowest in Somaliland and the Somali Peninsula as a whole.

DHYBRID was able to realize the extensive expansion despite the ongoing pandemic and the far-reaching logistical challenges with the help of international partner teams and remote commissioning.

High energy prices and more and more solar installations

Somalia and the Republic of Somaliland are among the countries with the highest energy prices in the world. Isolated city grids with diesel generators characterize the energy system. At the same time, the demand for electrical energy is growing due to the rapid expansion of infrastructure. The port of Berbera, for example, is intended to improve the flow of goods to Ethiopia, with its population of over 100 million, and is currently being expanded at a cost of almost half a billion dollars. Berbera also has its own airports, which are also supplied with energy by BEC.

In order to improve the energy supply, more and more photovoltaic power plants are being built in Somaliland in addition to existing generators. This change poses great challenges for the grids: “Different generators in the grid must be continuously coordinated, especially when renewable energies are involved. Otherwise, problems with grid frequency and voltage are pre-programmed and the available power cannot even be exploited,” explains Benedikt Böhm from DHYBRID. “Just looking at installed solar capacity is not enough because of this, good grid management is essential.”

Universal Power Platform coordinates decentralized generators

“The requirement was clear: Berbera needed a scalable power supply that we could monitor and manage centrally and as quickly as possible. DHYBRID succeeded in both with the Universal Power Platform; the power quality and performance of the network increased noticeably immediately after commissioning,” says Ibrahim Yaqub, CEO of BEC. As a result, the power factor of Berbera’s entire urban network has increased by 20 percent. This made the distribution much more resilient and the power generation much more efficient. Additionally, by phasing out the use of large amounts of diesel fuel, Berbera is now the largest town in Somaliland powered by renewable energy. In addition, the city now operates the largest battery storage system in the country.

BEC uses DHYBRID’s technology open Universal Power Platform (UPP) as process control system and monitors its energy network with the SCADA system of the microgrid specialists from Germany. The term SCADA stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition and describes computer-aided systems for monitoring technical equipment.

DHYBRID’s lithium-ion storage can be operated both in parallel with the grid and in grid-forming mode. In this operating mode, in conjunction with the UPP, it almost completely excludes grid instabilities and disturbances, which are triggered, among other things, by the increasing energy demand.

The project in Somaliland is one of the first in the world to use DHYBRID’s patented Maximum Inverter Power Tracking (MIPT), which increases the amount of solar power in microgrids.