UC researchers out to demystify smart grids

11 June 2013

UC researchers have produced a white paper on smart grids that reviews the challenges facing the transmission and distribution industries.

UC researchers out to demystify smart grids - Imported from Legacy News system

Dr Allan Miller

University of Canterbury researchers have produced a white paper on smart grids that reviews the challenges facing the transmission and distribution industries and how modern digital technology can be used in future.

UC’s Dr Allan Miller, who is heading the research team, says the term smart grid is used extensively today, even though there are diverse opinions on what it means. 

The paper aims to demystify the smart grid term and to point out that it relates to a very wide range of technologies, some that have been used in the New Zealand grid for many years and some that are quite new.

"There is a substantial amount of new technology and thought being applied to power systems in New Zealand already, although there is scope for more.

"Some of this new technology derives from advances in semiconductor technology and includes power electronics and computing,’’ Dr Miller says.

Last year, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment granted Dr Miller $6.3 million to head research into improving the national grid.

New Zealand is targeting 90 percent of electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2025. Currently, 75 percent of New Zealand’s electricity is generated for renewable sources. Dr Miller says the target is challenging but realistic, given New Zealand's renewable energy potential and expertise in renewable development.

The research team at UC is looking at ways to facilitate new renewable generation into the electricity network, both at the transmission level and distribution network to ensure a secure and economically efficient electricity supply. 

"We want to make the national grid smarter through better integration of the demand side with generation through the grid. 

"This would be achieved through pooling resources from smart appliances, electric vehicles and domestic roof-top solar power to manage the variability of renewable generation.

"We aim to provide industry with methods for managing and balancing supply and demand variability and delivering a functional and safe distribution network in which variable renewable generation is a growing part of the energy supply.’’

Organisations such as Transpower, Orion NZ, Unison, Vector, WEL Networks, Meridian Energy, the Electricity Authority, the Electricity Engineers Association and Fisher & Paykel Appliances are also contributing to the project headed by Dr Miller, who is director of UC’s Electric Power Engineering Centre.

"The result will be an efficient, cost-effective and robust electricity network meeting the on-going and changing power supply and demand needs of New Zealanders,’’ Dr Miller says.

The paper is available from UC’s Electric Power Engineering Centre’s website at: http://www.epecentre.ac.nz/research/

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