The power distribution grid is facing a unique set of challenges
Published on : Saturday 04-02-2023
Dr Ashish Manchanda, Managing Director, Finder India Pvt Ltd.
How can automation and control help to scale up the Green Energy solutions to industrial levels?
The traditional off the shelf technologies can no longer solve the purpose in Green Energy concepts to remain efficient. Higher degree of involvement with respect to robotics and automation are crucial in the manufacturing of products to harness renewable energy sources in the renewable energy sector. The complex design structure of the products is increasing the demand for machine precision, which cannot be possible with the human workforce. While an automaton offers an effective and efficient implementation of tasks in order to save time, cost, and the overall production cost. Among the key benefits of automation are greater productivity, safety, efficiency, and accuracy. When used for building green technology systems, these features ensure that the solution is eco-friendly. They make the manufacturing process less resource intensive.
How the Battery Energy Storage system (BESS) can help the Grid stability in view of ingress more renewable into the Grid Network?
Grid-scale batteries have a vital role to play in the journey to a lower-carbon future, helping to address the intermittency of renewables like solar and wind, and assisting the goal of making electricity supplies more affordable and resilient.
BESS offers great flexibility, unlike some other forms of energy storage and generation. Their response time is fast, turning on and off in fractions of a second to help maintain grid stability. They respond to peak demand, build grid resilience and provide backup power when you need it. Installing a behind-the-meter BESS on a site can help industry to improve its energy productivity, unlock revenue from various market schemes and at the same time deliver on Environmental, Social and Governance commitments.
Generation of electricity from fossil fuels is attributed with generation of over 40% of CO2 emissions. Automation can play a pivotal role firstly in creating the dashboards and thereafter also helping the industry with algorithms to reduce these emissions by adopting various suitable algorithms.
What are the trends in this matter which is occupying the mind space of leaders the world over?
AER or Automated Emission Reduction is now the leading priority of Industrial Energy Consumers. Customer demand for energy services is evolving quickly. Both industrial and institutional customers increasingly demand products and services that are both “green” (i.e., environmentally friendly) and “smart” (i.e., Internet-connected, communicating, and automated).
Innovative companies are busy developing new products and services to chase this demand as fast as they can. In particular, opportunities are emerging for devices, process control, building controls, and related software to address both of these trends at the same time. This technology can take advantage of customers’ demand flexibility to shift load to when generation is cleanest. This approach can provide customers with a way to meaningfully reduce their emissions footprint, at near-zero cost, with minimal inconvenience.
Traditionally power transmission meant transporting energy generated from large utilities to consumption centres located well away. But today, with various alternate means of generation, who also have an ambition to export energy to the grid, the patterns have changed. There are multiple points of generation of various capacities with different constraints, which might impact grid stability.
What steps are taken to induct the new technologies of AI and ML into this challenging area?
With current forecasting techniques, utilities can largely predict total power output from alternate energy generation systems. These daily power outputs can be estimated relatively accurately using weather forecasts. However, short-term predictions (the minute-to-minute demands within a day) are difficult to create. Instantaneous changes in cloud cover or wind speed can result in varying power output from solar or wind-based systems. This presents a challenge for utilities as large variations in short-term power production can result in grid instabilities if they are not accounted for. AI Algorithms in such cases offer Stability through Real-Time Predictions
Although processing and analysing massive amounts of complex Distributed Energy Resources (DER) data in real time seems like an impossible task, with machine learning algorithms there is an increase in accuracy that allows utilities to properly plan energy dispatch and increase grid stability, which in turn saves them money. These algorithms help utilities dispatch power produced by DER more accurately, no matter how much DER capacity is attached to the grid. The algorithms also learn as they are given more data. If utilities want their algorithms to be as accurate as possible, once there are enough DERs connected to the grid that algorithms are needed, they are given the ability to learn over time.
One of the major challenges in power distribution is disruption to power supply due to faults in the distribution system. This forces many entities to resort to captive power generation systems, which are of a smaller capacity, and then usually of lower efficiency. One attempt all along has been to localise and repair faults rapidly.
What new technologies have entered this field and how automation can help the utilities to identify the faults swiftly and further their faster restoration?
The power distribution grid is facing a unique set of challenges that are increasing pressure on an already struggling and ageing infrastructure. As a measure to counteract this trend, innovative and smart solutions are now being used that combine automation and decentralised applications to monitor and remotely control the grid.
Automation solutions for distribution ensure the cost-efficient operation and maintenance of primary equipment, increased supply safety and voltage quality, and a rapid adjustment to changes in the distribution network. Features such as fault detection, fault location, voltage and reactive power compensation, and power quality measurements are also now a part of automated systems.
Now, cloud-based services make it possible to send fault information – including the fault location – directly to the maintenance crews so they can go right to the faulty section without time-consuming line patrol. The result is that fault messages are enabled even without a control room or complex IT hardware – making fault localisation with a mobile and surprisingly cost-effective alternative.
In a smart city, metering of electricity consumed needs smart meters. These meters need to do more than just measure the flow of power; they may also need to track time-of-day consumption, maximum demand and such parameters. What are the latest techniques in this field?
Smart metering is based on a combination of a device and a cloud solution. This enables permanent access to data collected on an ongoing basis and analysis in real-time, which is the greatest value of the entire solution. Smart Metering operates on the basis of established technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ethernet and LTE, as well as new ones such as Narrowband-IoT, which provide better signal penetration.
Smart metering is becoming increasingly popular and is already a standard in India. When used as a factory solution together with the Industry 4.0 concept, it can produce tangible business results.
It’s hard to predict which way smart metering solutions will move. There are many promising technologies on the market, including new iterations of NB-IoT. We believe that adding more business value via different types of sensors (such as access hatch, pressure and temperature monitoring) can be a good direction in which to go.
To provide affordable and quality power to the consumers is the key objective of all the stakeholder/utilities. How automation and associated technologies can help on this aspect?
Power Quality is an issue that has been taken very seriously by the transmission and distribution system operators in India.The distribution level network is almost 95% underground and is therefore little affected by extreme weather events. However, the transmission system is affected, and for this reason, automation of the system has been undertaken – through SCADA on the transmission side and a distribution management system (DMS) on the distribution side – in order to minimise the impact on power quality and affordability to the customers.
The distribution network substations are automated in a ring configuration connecting two substations and smaller substations in-between.In the case of a fault on either of the sides, automated systems switch the consumers to an alternate feeder in a matter of milliseconds. This is done with the help of fault passage indicators which are communicable and visible on the DMS.
The communication systems are enabled through GPRS and fibre and all of these assets are mapped on our GIS, and therefore in real-time we can see what areas are out of supply and restore the consumers who are affected.The GIS is connected to the CRM, and this allows customer service representatives the opportunity to identify and provide accurate information on restoration efforts.
How to deal with the coming new challenge of integration of new actors such as electric vehicles, storage, green hydrogen and distribution operators with the help of automation in the Power System?
The most important of the New Challenges in this field comes after the integration of information technology (IT) with intellectual property and operational technology (OT) in these systems that throw up unprecedented cybersecurity challenges.
Piecemeal approaches to automation escalate the cost and minimise benefits over the long run. The same is true for the cybersecurity systems that guard present-day automation systems against cyber-attacks. As technology marches ahead with every passing day, the integrated nature of cybersecurity will assume greater importance for the survival and thriving of robust automation systems.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)
Dr Ashish Manchanda is the Managing Director of Finder India Pvt Ltd. He has been associated with Electrical, Instrumentation and Automation Technology since the last 30 years, which has provided practical and hands-on experience in designing, maintaining and servicing control system solutions as well as automation components for various segments of industry. He has travelled to different end users in the past many years to offer solutions on site. He is also a member of ISA Delhi Section, AIMA Delhi and Instrumentation Experts Club, Mumbai.
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