Investigation into Voltage Management Technologies for Future Australian Suburban Distribution Networks

Chief Investigators

Dr. Reza Razzaghi   (Monash University)

Purpose of project

Low Voltage distribution networks are undergoing unprecedented changes with consumers rapidly adopting rooftop solar PV, battery technologies, and electric vehicles. To enable the continued integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) and to ensure distribution networks remain safe, reliable, and efficient, a combination of network and non-network solutions needs to be deployed. Among various solutions, dSTATCOM (a power electronic device, Distribution-scale static synchronous compensator) has been shown as an effective method to increase DER hosting capacity and delay the need for more costly physical augmentation of the network. 

This project utilised a novel solution to manage challenges introduced by DERs in power distribution networks. It leveraged Planet Ark Power’s unique power electronics and software solution, eleXsys, as the core element and analysed novel LV and MV voltage management techniques for zone substation, supporting 100% penetration of distributed energy resources. It also carried out a comprehensive analysis of the network hosting capacity improvements using eleXsys technology.  

Findings 

The findings of this report demonstrate how severe the voltage management and curtailment issues will become if left unchecked as well as which voltage management solutions work best and the extent of the impact that they would have if applied at specific levels. The results also demonstrate that thermal rating violations will be also an emerging issue with high penetration of DERs.   

Impact of project

The trends in the severity of emerging voltage management and curtailment issues that are revealed by this study will inform distribution network service providers, who are the relevant stakeholders in this area, as to the timescale within which they will likely need to act to rectify them. The insights into how effective the three different voltage management solutions are will also inform them as to the volume of these solutions that would need to be deployed in the years ahead.   

In the interest of sharing knowledge developed from this project with future researchers. A data package containing four seasonal versions of the model used in this projects analysis has been uploaded to Github for use by others. The particular zone substation in the Energex network for which this model is based has been de-identified for the purposes of this report, and was modelled in detail from the 33 kV level down to the LV level in PowerFactory. The study period chosen for baselining of the model was 30/04/2021 – 30/10/2022.

The model data provided contains several useful scripts that can be used to run simulations with the model and to grow the amounts EVs and residential and commercial/industrial PV – and a PDF explaining to the prospective user how to make use of these. 

The authors of the data package hope the sharing of these models proves useful to others but is unable to extend commitment of support for users who wish to make use of this model. The author is also unable to accept any responsibility that this model is fit for purpose for any particular type of study.

Research roadmap 

The emergence of thermal rating violations that will be simultaneous with the emergence of voltage management and curtailment issues was an interesting finding from this study. Future work will therefore focus on the optimal mixtures of re-conductoring, transformer upgrades, LV area splitting, on-load tap changer transformer deployment, static synchronous compensator deployment and neighbourhood battery storage that could address both voltage management and thermal rating violation issues as needed in typical Australian distribution networks. It will also ensure that network service providers can plan cost-effective future network upgrades that will address these issues ahead of time, rather than reacting to them after they have already emerged. 

Project partners – industry and research

Monash University (Lead), PlanetArk Power 

Industry Reference Group members

Ausgrid, Climate-KIC, CSIRO, eleXsys Energy, Energy Consumers Australia, Energy Queensland, Western Power

Completion date

October 2023

Project code

0249

Page last updated 24 May 2024