Bring on the Renewables: Ensuring Grid Stability in the Era of Decentralization

POSTED BY: Daniel Nechay

From demanding renewable energy options to generating their own electricity, customers are taking an unprecedented interest in the source of their electricity. At the same time, all around the world, governments are setting mandatory renewable energy targets.

This is a challenge, to say the least, given the intermittent nature of distributed energy resources (DERs), the potential of reverse power flow, and customer expectations of power that is always on.

More than ever, it’s critical that utilities: 

  • Have a complete, real-time understanding of their grid, even in areas where there are no sensors
  • Are able to identify routine network issues such as potential overloads and voltage violations
  • Can quickly resolve issues before they escalate into power outages

I know what you’re thinking: this is not new and there are applications that handle this – specifically,  engineering analysis tools that offer power flow applications to assess network conditions.

You’re right... except those applications are not broadly available to control room operators. To successfully incorporate DERs into your real-time grid operations, the control rooms needs an online application they can use to monitor your entire feeder, including DERs, routinely perform power flow calculations, and act on alerts when remedial action is needed. Manually analyzing data from separate systems for analysis isn’t practical – real-time data is key in managing DERs. Plus, you’re increasing the chance of comparing data from different times, which decreases the accuracy of calculations.

The solution is to combine automated assessment and calculation capabilities with real-time data from anywhere on the feeder, including substations and DERs, and estimates of the network’s health in areas without sensors. This is the premise behind Survalent’s Distribution Power Flow and Distribution State Estimation (DPF and DSE) products. With DPF and DSE in the control room, operators have access to real-time data on network conditions, including the state of decentralized assets, so they can make rapid fact-based decisions that keep the grid running with minimal disruptions.

How Does DPF Support Grid Efficiency and Reliability?

SurvalentONE Distribution Power Flow runs in the background, assessing the electrical health of your distribution network and notifying your operators immediately of any concerns. DPF uses substation SCADA measurements and your network model to calculate phase voltages, currents, and losses throughout the network. When it identifies potential overloads and voltage violations, it generates an alarm and provides operators with an analytic, problem-solving framework to help them take immediate action. For example, operators can use:

  • Built-in switching and load transfer studies to determine the best alternative network configuration to prevent or alleviate overloads, poor voltage conditions, or line losses
  • The short circuit analysis study to calculate fault current scenarios at the troubled location or coordinate protection settings
  • The restoration study to simulate faults or loss of voltage events in the network and observe how the system reacts to each scenario
  • Built-in, pre-switch validation assesses the potential impact of actions and advises operators so they can make informed decisions. Using pre-switch validation, operators can quickly check what the impact would be of opening or closing a device before actually taking action.

With this information, your operators can develop a switching plan to minimize disruption and keep the power flowing.

Addressing the additional complexity of DERs

Detailed knowledge of your network’s electrical characteristics at any point in time is essential to maintain a safe and consistent power supply. As you incorporate DERs into your network, you will need to ensure that power flow assessments include real-time data from integrated renewable sources such as wind farms, rooftop solar panels, and microgrids, as well as traditional substation data. It will also need to factor in reverse power flow situations to maintain network stability.

SurvalentONE Distribution State Estimation lets you incorporate distributed energy sources into your grid without sacrificing efficiency, power quality, or reliability. DSE includes SCADA measurements from outside substations into your power flow calculations and eliminates time skews between all measurements. It then performs a consistency check at points where voltage, current, and real and reactive power are available. As micro-grids and DERs take on a greater role in your distribution network, you can use DSE to model their behavior and monitor their impact in real-time. When it comes to incorporating DERs into your network, DSE is the “secret sauce”, because it delivers the situational awareness you need to operate a network that includes microgrids and DERs.

With DPF and DSE, you can be confident in the accuracy of phase voltage, current, and loss calculations throughout the network. Without changing applications, operators can view a map display of current network conditions with security violations highlighted. They can run switching, load transfer, short circuit analysis, and restoration studies for assessing alternative network configurations.

You can also model your micro-grids and DERs to factor in their reverse power flow capability. Operators can leverage this information to best manage DERs using an accurate view of the distribution network’s operating parameters.

The result? Early warning of potential overloads and voltage violations. Increased grid efficiency and reliability. Greater situational awareness of networks that include microgrid and DERs. And, ultimately, satisfied customers and regulators.

How are you addressing the challenges of bringing microgrids and DERs into your network? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Daniel Nechay



Daniel Nechay

Product Manager

Daniel is a Product Manager at Survalent and is responsible for the OMS and DMS portfolios, and the cyber-security approach for Survalent’s advanced distribution management system (ADMS).  His work with customers include conducting product demonstrations and training sessions, hosting workshops to demonstrate new features, and requirements gathering from customers for future product enhancements.

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