More and more countries are creating Smart Grid strategies to develop new grid technologies and services. Many countries have also established world class research in Smart Grids, for example, Scotland. Most of these institutes, like the University of Strathclyde and other world class institutes in Europe, already work together in DERlab and have established links to other laboratories in the US and Japan. Of course with all these researchers (let’s not also forget the research of transmission and distribution operators and manufacturers) we should ask: what kind of research should be done—and needs to be done—on the transnational level?
Two weeks ago, I participated in a workshop in Brussels regarding the future research infrastructure needs for Smart Grid. The workshop was jointly organised by the European Commission and DERlab, with participation ranging from academia to transmission and distribution operators, testing laboratories, and manufactures. We discerned that the future needs for Smart Grid research have to be identified with a European or transnational approach, for both transmission and distribution level. The academia and laboratories in the research infrastructure, such as DERlab in Europe, must get connected in order to achieve the maximum benefit from each participant’s unique capabilities.
This brings me to the question: what kind of research should be done at European or transnational level? Smart Grid is about active customer involvement and integration of fluctuating RES with information and communication technology and power electronics to enable additional new technologies. As a consequence, the nature of the power grid will change. The future distribution grid will be inverter dominated and this has consequences for stability, control, and protection. On the transmission level, more bulk transmission across long distances and faster changing power flows will occur.
We know there are, in general, two types of tests needed to guarantee a reliable and stable operation of grid: component and system testing. Component research and testing is not a problem, because this will be covered by manufacturer and independent test laboratories as it is currently done, and only for the highest transmission voltages such as UHVDC will require some collaboration based on the high costs. For system testing, one can imagine the costs of rebuilding a sizeable part of the system for the sole purpose of testing—the high voltage system required for testing large scale blackouts and short circuits would be very costly.
Thus, for system testing at the transmission level we have to rely on simulation. Because the consequences of wrong estimates and predictions can be disastrous, we must have validated models developed for the new transmission equipment—these include HVDC links, voltage source converters and their controls. People have to be trained on the transmission system operation using simulators and trainers, and must also learn the energy market, which will become integral.
Experiments are very costly and must not compromise the grid integrity and stability; therefore, only wide area, real-time measurements and system behaviours are collected from switching and transient analysis. As a consequence the transmission system is a part of the simulation model.
For the distribution grid it is possible to rebuild a part of the grid, which can be done relatively easily for the low voltage level, but is more costly at medium voltage distribution level. The main questions here are: what is a representative part of the grid, and how can we integrate customer interaction? (For a discussion of these aspects see my blog: The development of in-house testing and emerging distributed testing).
In summary, for European or transnational transmission research infrastructural needs, large validated simulators are needed for system integration in which the grid itself..The market is embedded together with component testing for the highest voltage levels. For distribution research infrastructural needs, a collaboration and mutual access to the rebuilds of the distribution grid are needed to reflect the local situation, including validated smart components and allowing for customer interaction.
By: Peter Vaessen, principal consultant, DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability