Secure Distribution Networks of the Future

16/07/2013
Copyright: Martin Lux

This week saw the launch of the new collaborative project “Protection of Future Distribution Systems,” ProFuDis for short. The project, which receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, is to investigate whether today’s protection systems provide sufficient security for the electrical distribution networks in Germany, which will undergo significant modifications in the future.

 

While until a few years ago, mainly consumers were attached to the lower levels of the power grid, today, for political, ecological and economical reasons, an increasing number of decentralized producers, such as photovoltaic plants, small-scale home power plants, and wind turbines, is integrated into the networks. Also the use of novel technologies, such as electric vehicles, will have an impact on the distribution systems. For these reasons, the operation of the networks is increasingly complex, and research and industry seek to develop intelligent solutions to new challenges.

Effective Protection Systems for Distribution Networks

For the security and safety for us as users, it is necessary that the integrated protection systems are effective and functional at all times. Comparable to overcurrent protection devices or fuses in the home, which protect human life and property from overloads, there are also protection systems for distribution networks, which are to guarantee safe operation and prevent damages and large-scale power outages. However, it has not been sufficiently investigated how these protection systems will work with the power grids of the future.

Against this background, the ProFuDis project sets out to predict future developments and model future network operation. With the help of simulation methods, the protection systems will then be evaluated by the participating universities and research institutions, including the Test Center for Intelligent Power Grids at RWTH Aachen University (SmartGrid). Using the low- and medium-voltage grids of the Institute for High Voltage Technology, the researchers will investigate whether today’s protection systems are capable of meeting future requirements.

A further goal of the project is to develop technically robust and economically beneficial solutions for the possible deficiencies of today’s protection systems. In this way, reliable and secure operation of the distribution networks shall be guaranteed.

Project Partners

The three-year project, which receives 2,1 million euros in funding, will be coordinated by the RWTH Institute for High Voltage Technology headed by Professor Armin Schnettler. Research partners include HWT Saar and FGH, the Forschungsgemeinschaft für Elektrische Anlagen und Stromwirtschaft; contributing expert partners from business and industry are the companies ABB AG, OMICRON electronics GmbH, RWE Deutschland AG, Schneider Electric GmbH, Siemens AG, and SMA Solar Technology AG. Also involved is the non-profit association NH/HH-Recycling.

The involved industrial partners make possible a concrete analysis of today’s protections systems and the technologies attached to the power grid. The broad spectrum of contributors provides an integrated view on all relevant technological aspects of power grid safety, paving the way for creative solutions to the challenges at hand.