The Infosys Utilities Blog seeks to discuss and answer the industry’s burning Smart Grid questions through the commentary of the industry’s leading Smart Grid and Sustainability experts. This blogging community offers a rich source of fresh new ideas on the planning, design and implementation of solutions for the utility industry of tomorrow.

« October 2012 | Main | December 2012 »

November 21, 2012

Winning with Volt-VARs in Smart Grids

Electrical utilities across the globe are focusing on distribution automation (DA) in order to enhance efficiency, reliability and capacity of the grid. As the energy demand is soaring high and new power-hungry technologies like electrical vehicles proliferate, utilities are forced to seek newer means for meeting peaking requirements of the power system. In addition to this, the proliferation of green power adds to the volatility of the voltage due to the inherent intermittency in the renewable sources.

Volt-VAR Optimization is a popular smart solution for addressing these concerns, which not only reduces power losses (I2R losses) from distribution and hence in transmission systems but also can enhance the much-needed capacity to meet future demand. Lowering dependency on carbon-emitting generation sources to meet the peak demands is an added advantage of Volt-VAR optimization. By establishing centralized coordination between Volt/VAR control devices using advanced Volt/VAR control solutions across the distribution grid, utilities can achieve higher operating efficiencies of their systems. This in turn will avoid additional investments in the utility asset base for capacity building and also enhances the productivity of the existing assets. The utilities can immediately realize the benefits of smart grids both financially and quality wise. Adding layered intelligence in the system will give a greater degree of flexibility and redundancy in case of contingencies. The major benefits of advanced Volt/VAR optimization solutions for the utilities can be the following:

Released system capacity: Advanced Volt-VAR control solutions reduce the necessity to transmit VARs over the system. This improves system stability capacity due to released line loading which otherwise would have been higher due to circulating VARs. The utilization of the assets can thus be improved implying that more number of customers can be served with the same assets. Also, utilities can avoid the investments in the system augmentations due to this released system capacity. By implementing effective communication and coordination between compensating devices on the feeder, controls can work in greater synchronization thus eliminating hunting and cycling issues.

Reduced losses: Volt-VAR optimization solutions help to reduce losses that occur during the distribution of electricity. Decreased VAR circulation results in lesser current in lines and hence lowered copper losses. Utilities can lower their energy purchases and the associated carbon emissions.

Reduced Reserve Capacity: To meet the peak demand requirements, fossil fuel/gas fired generators are used in short-term. With the implementation of effective Volt-VAR optimization, the reserve capacities can be avoided and this would result in direct financial benefits to the utilities.

Peak Demand Curtailment: Usage of advanced solutions for Volt-VAR control will allow utilities to cut down peak demand through voltage conservation. With voltage conservation, a slight reduction in voltage can reduce demand on the system as the power consumption is proportional to voltage exponent. These solutions give full control to the utilities and do not rely on consumer action as part of a home energy management program or a load control program that turns off their air conditioners. This avoids the uncertainties. Volt-VAR controls can be deployed quickly and easily while offering the flexibility of layered intelligence that can be tuned up into any future deployment of a larger enterprise-wide system.

 Apart from the economic and operational benefits, historical data from the Volt-VAR system can help identify design inadequacies of the system. This will help in making future optimization efforts far more effective.

Please share your views on other significant benefits of Volt/VAR optimization.