Distributed energy resourcesProject Networks Renewed
This Technical Analysis has been undertaken to understand the current ‘state of play’ in technology and market development in order to design an innovative and informative market-scale demonstration.
The analysis first considers the problem of network voltage and the potential for smart inverters to resolve this through novel control methods. Managing voltage is an important function of network businesses, now and into the future, to ensure that Australia’s electricity remains reliable. However, the rise of residential solar and other inverter-connected distributed energy generators has changed the landscape for network voltages, as outlined in Figure 1. This creates both opportunities and challenges. Uncontrolled solar and storage may exacerbate voltage fluctuations on the network, leading to more frequent voltage excursions. However, controlling them strategically may actually enhance network power quality. In fact, the ‘smart’ technologies that can control voltage now exist in new off-the- shelf inverters, but they are yet to be tested by the market.
Essentially, there is an opportunity for network businesses to tap into these new smart inverter capabilities to solve voltage problems in locations where solutions are most needed. With the establishment of an updated AS4777 standard this year, network businesses now require all new inverters to have smart-grid capabilities. The question is: How smart do we want these inverters to be? There are a number of novel controls to implement smart inverter capabilities that have been examined in the literature. Appendix E provides a ‘menu’ of candidate methods that have been considered for the experimental development of the Networks Renewed project.
Given the suite of possible controls, this report outlines the project’s experimental approach to delivering first-of-a kind demonstrations in Sections 4.2 and 5.1. This approach also considers the market potential and policy landscape to ensure that the demonstrations will test the options that deliver the greatest economic value. And although the project will necessarily address present-day levels of solar PV through experiments, network models validated by experimental data will also anticipate how well the demonstrated technology is likely to perform in a future with higher levels of solar PV.
Technical performance needs to be coupled with commercial success if smart inverters are to replace traditional network investments. The Technical Analysis concludes by emphasising the importance of using the project’s experimental findings, including its commercial aspects, to inform a comprehensive business case.