Researcher at the Center for Energy Transition UAI will participate in an interuniversity project that will use hardware for real-time simulations of the electrical system

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By the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez

June 2022

(Please note that this is a machine translation of the original version, published in Spanish)

Through a 5-year Fondequip project, four Chilean universities will set up a configurable test bench based on real-time simulators allowing interaction with the hardware (real equipment). Based on these simulators, the test bench will model the operation of electrical networks with high penetration of renewable energies such as solar and wind, with active and efficient operation of distribution networks, and the participation of microgrids .

Thanks to the allocation of an inter-university project in the Scientific and Technological Equipment Program (Fondequip) for the major equipment of the National Agency for Research and Development (ANID); the University of Santiago, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez -through the Center for Energy Transition CENTRA UAI-, Universidad Austral and Universidad de Chile, will implement a configurable test bed for the dynamic modeling of low-carbon electricity systems with a high penetration of energy resources connected through power electronics, where there will be equipment installed in each university but connected through the Internet.

The awarded fund will receive contributions from ANID of nearly 860 million pesos, to which are added the contribution of the participating universities, nearly 100 million pesos in total and 285 million equivalent in infrastructure made available for the project. The above will finance the purchase of high commercial value equipment (real-time simulators and power amplifiers, among others), as well as transport and installation costs in addition to its operation for 5 years.

According Luis Gutiérrez, project researcher at the UAI and researcher at the Center for Energy Transition (CENTRA) of the Faculty of Engineering and Science of the Adolfo Ibáñez Universitythe opportunity to “promote the development of an inter-institutional research team that allows to increase the impact of Chile’s research in the world and explores collaboration with global centers of excellence that have similar teams through a remote connection.In this sense, we have, for example, recommendations and letters of interest to collaborate from prestigious institutions in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, as well as letters of support and interest of local industry. The above not only supports the strong potential of the project in terms of academic contributions but also the relevance of being able to take a look at the national electricity sector for the electricity system of tomorrow and test different solutions to the major challenges to be expected, before they arise on the test bench.

The academic underlines the interest of also implementing data analyzes associated with the knowledge of the situation of the operation in real time and thus preparing the future dispatchers of the system, with greater penetration and more volatile in dynamic terms .

This type of mega Fondequip project must have at least 3 establishments and the 5-year research period responds to the need to consider a timeframe for the acquisition, installation and operation of equipment. In the future, these must be made available to external researchers for at least 30 working days per year during the duration of the project and at least 50% of this time is intended for users in a region other than the region. beneficiary, in this case the Métropolitain. The quality of the proposal is to be underlined because this project was one of the 3 selected out of a total of 23 admissible proposals.

Professor Luis Gutiérrez maintains the importance of exploring the challenges posed by the operation of electrical power systems with high penetration of non-conventional renewable energies, which are normally connected to power electronic equipment. He adds: “Distribution networks were designed decades ago, when PV distributed generation and electric vehicles were not on the map. A ‘fit and forget’ type design with minimal or no observability was sufficient. .The worst case demand (maximum) was used to size the conductors and choose the taps of the secondary transformers in order to deliver voltage to the end customers in the required operating band.However, with the adoption of new technologies such as generation decentralized photovoltaics, electric vehicles or electrification of air conditioning, the design limits of the networks can be exceeded, causing congestion, voltage problems and potentially outages, which jeopardize the continuity of supply in the event smarter control strategies.

Therefore, explains Professor Gutiérrez, it is necessary to monitor and control the distribution systems, but it must also be done at the transmission level. Solar power and wind power experience variations due to the changing nature of the primary resource, which affects the power swings. This new scenario implies permanent regulation, because before demand was predictable, but with the spread of distributed generation and other high-consumption technologies such as electric vehicles, aggregate demand becomes much more volatile and, therefore, in now the systems in its operational parameters, it becomes much more complex.

Another very relevant challenge concerns the demand ramps in electrical systems with high penetration of photovoltaic production. “The net demand observed by conventional generators will be much lower in solar time, but within a few hours the same demand will increase rapidly at sunset. This phenomenon of net demand decreasing in solar time and rapidly increasing l he rush hour is known as the duck curve, and it may get worse with the mass adoption of electric vehicles, which would tend to be connected during peak hours, when their users arrive home. above requires solutions that can be modeled and tested in as realistic an environment as possible before implementing them in practice, such as using storage and the same electric vehicles with controlled charging to flatten the curve of demand. Different complementary services can also be tested to control the frequency at the system level or to regulate the voltage and the congestion a at the network level. That’s basically what we want to do with the new equipment,” says Gutiérrez.

Regarding the influence of power electronics on the stability of electrical systems, the laboratory will test the behavior of real power electronics equipment connected to the real-time simulator of the electrical system via power amplifiers. For example, infrastructures such as solar and wind power plants, HVDC, BESS, FACTS, among others, will be analyzed; demonstrating their impacts and opportunities in their interactions with the power grid.

Concretely, the project consists of a real-time simulator distributed over 4 geographical locations (associated with the municipalities where the research universities are located), which will be coordinated via the Internet. The reason for considering remote geographic locations is to realistically model the remote communication of distant elements through conventional communication channels. This interaction aims, for example, to test the feasibility of distributed energy resources that can respond in a coordinated manner to regulation commands given by the manager of the electrical network for various purposes, in particular for primary frequency regulation, where the actuation of the regulations must be quick For the project, the large-scale transmission/generation system is simulated in one university while microgrids can be simulated in others and specific hardware can be tested. In the UAI, a large unbalanced MV-LV distribution network (thousands of three-phase nodes) will be simulated. With this “multi-site” configuration, the project is unique in Chile and will allow the integration of problems treated separately by discipline, uniting them with equipment to obtain global results with greater impact.

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