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Intelligent substations necessary for renewables integration

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two key issues remain regarding the future of America's energy systems: The integration of untold amounts of energy from renewable sources into the smart grid, and the actualization of active demand through customer involvement.

To address these issues, a more intelligent grid must be developed to mesh with generation and load with high coincidence factors without major reinforcements, Energy Digital reports.

The future of local power distribution networks will offer self-supporting energy environments in rural, urban or industrial landscapes. Generators will use several different technologies on the distribution level. Utilities operating in this environment will need to seek out ways to achieve the best possible security for the system, which requires assessing the vulnerability of the grid and responding with the appropriate tools to avoid blackouts and disruptions.

Intelligent substations will be a crucial aspect of the future smart grid, and will allow utilities to securely and efficiently integrate power from renewables.

Distribution network operators (DNOs) will be confronted by great uncertainty for planning and operation, as the size, location and timing of generation and load are typically unpredictable with intermittent energy sources, such as solar and wind. DNOs will likely find that investments in grid reinforcement will be costly and unsatisfactory, prompting them to install intelligence onto the existing network, rather than performing overhauls and upgrades, the media outlet stated.

By installing smart substations, utilities can aggregate customer demand and supply, guarantee power quality, allow for controlled islanding and use their substation as an information and control gateway.

Utilities are now confronted with the question of how the power exchange layer will progress between existing large-scale generation and the many distributed resources.

In one scenario, large power plants will be connected to others though a high-voltage transmission network, while a low-voltage distribution network would connect micro grids that are nearly self-supported. In another case, both large-scale plants and micro grid would be interconnected through a medium-voltage network.

While smart substations will be essential for both reliable and sustainable power in either scenario, each will have a different function and realization path, depending which becomes a reality.

SUBNET Solutions Inc., offers utilities expertise in substation automation deployment and other intelligent substation functions that will be crucial for efficient operation of the future grid. 

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