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Winning with Volt-VARs - How to do it the smart way?

Winning with Volt-VARs - How to do it the smart way?


I've written about the benefits of volt-VAR optimization in my previous blog. An important question that has to be answered by the utilities which are looking for implementation of such a program is "How do we do it?"

Utilities looking for dynamic reactive power and voltage optimization, if it is a new network expansion, should initially consider revisiting the design of their power distribution networks. It should be ensured that the network has adequate transformer sizes for reducing losses, minimal feeder splice points and optimal conductor sizes enabling efficient flow of power. This should ensure reduced energy losses and reactive power losses from physical assets point of view without any major capital investments.

As a next step for the new networks  (and also for the existing power networks) , utilities should consider conducting a complete engineering analysis using network analysis software to ensure optimal sizing, quantity, and placement of capacitors and regulating devices that will optimize voltage management and VARs across individual feeders of the distribution area. With the advanced engineering analysis software available these days, it is possible even to determine the optimal step sizes of the compensation devices.

After choosing the best configuration from engineering analysis, the compensation devices with intelligent controls and communications can be installed onto the system with interface to central analytical software to decide the capacitor control device and distributed voltage regulator settings throughout the network based on the dynamic load data.

Installing such an advanced Volt-VAR control system can help mitigating the impact of the penetration of renewables on the grid. Especially, plug-in electric vehicles and photovoltaic penetration can dramatically impact the system's voltage profile, thus affecting the quality of service.

Another key factor is to have analytics applications for sensing when high penetration renewables come online. This feature of renewable energy forecast will give insight into what's happening with the bi-directional power flow and will help in arriving at more accurate estimates of the volt/var compensation devices required for the system.

The accuracy of sensing data is also significant since voltage is normally managed within much stringent norms. Adequate Communication bandwidth and low network latency are also vital factors that utilities should ensure for obtaining quality data in near real-time for accurate control decisions.

Please share your views on the possible ways and necessary steps to implement smart volt/var systems in the grid.


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