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Modelling and simulation of the impacts of distributed generation integration into the smart grid
Onwunta, Onwunta Emea Kalu
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Distributed generation (DG) has been reincarnated after its demise by centralised generation. While economy of scale and efficiency are the advantages of the latter, deregulation of the electricity market, environmental concerns and the need to arrest dwindling reserve margins have necessitated the rebirth of the former. Indeed, a full circle has therefore evolved with generation being ‘embedded’ in distribution systems and ‘dispersed’ around the system rather than being located and dispatched centrally or globally. This development is in tandem with the history of industrial revolutions that started from energy and moved through services and communication and back to energy. South Africa is not immune to the global energy, especially tertiary energy, challenge phenomenon. At the peak of the 2007-2008 energy crisis, her generation net reserve margin fell below 10% – well below conventional industry benchmark of at least 15%. Also South Africa is Africa’s largest emitter of CO2 contributing over 40% of Africa’s total CO2 emissions. Therefore, DG’s relevance to South Africa is quite obvious. However, DG integration into distribution networks leads to a number of challenges. For instance, with significant penetration of DG power flow reversal may be experienced and the distribution network will no longer be a passive circuit. This underscores the crucial role of ICT in active distribution network occasioned by DG and especially the emergent of “prosumerism” (a hitherto consumer also becoming a producer). Therefore, a smart grid and similar phrases have all been used to describe a “digitised” and intelligent version of the present-day power grid. There are immense benefits derivable from modelling and simulation. Consequently, a typical radial distribution network model has been developed to evaluate the considerable impacts of DG integration. The modelling and simulation of the network are accomplished using the DIgSILENT PowerFactory simulation package. Impacts of DG on voltage profile, fault level, voltage stability and protection coordination have been investigated and their possible mitigation measures proferred. The results reveal that for a particular DG type its impacts depend mainly on its capacity and point of connection relative to a given load type. Smart grid technology addresses some of these impacts through its inherent capability which includes peer-to-peer relay communication for protective devices on the distribution feeder as well as communication to the DG facility.