Digital Twin increases opportunities for renewable energy

22 May 2023

Essential Energy has created a digital ‘twin’ covering most of its network, which spans 95 per cent of NSW as well as parts of Southern Queensland.

The ‘twin’ is an engineering grade virtual replica of the physical electricity network. It uses artificial intelligence-driven analytics to carry out large scale analysis to determine how the network will perform in real life, providing a level of insights that didn’t exist in the past.

When electricity flows through overhead powerlines, the wires heat up and sag. The digital twin has been used to accurately model the temperature overhead wires can reach before safety limits are impacted from sagging. The temperature limit represents the maximum capacity of the line, leading to efficiencies in managing the network and allowing Essential Energy to leverage existing assets for more load and growth in renewable energy generation.

Essential Energy’s CEO, John Cleland said “From emerging technologies and the smarts within the digital twin modelling platform, we have a much better understanding of capacity across the overhead network, with data showing capacity up to double in some areas to what was assumed before modelling was available.

The untapped capacity will facilitate new connections faster and at a lower cost due to, in many cases, the need to upgrade the network being reduced or fully removed.”

Representing the culmination of nearly eight years of development, Essential Energy announced the digital twin modelling findings during a recent interview with the Australian Financial Review, alongside Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Services Ltd (ASL) and software provider, Neara.

As part of its development, the digital twin has grown to provide a range of insights that impact everyday operational and investment decision making, alongside the ability to respond quickly to requirements on the ground.

“The modelling provided significant benefits to the rebuilding of the electricity network across the South Coast of NSW following the 2019/2020 Bushfire Season. The devastating fires resulted in the need to rebuild more than 3,200 power poles and electrical infrastructure. However, rather than build the network as it was prior to the fires, the modelling allowed us to optimise the rebuild, taking into consideration ground clearances, efficiency gains, resilience opportunities and best outcomes for local communities.

This was achieved as part of the recovery process, shortening design time and allowing teams on the ground to respond and complete work immediately – benefitting communities with restored power and a network built in readiness for future events,” said John.

Essential Energy is leading the industry in the application of digital twin modelling and will apply the capability to deliver the best outcomes for customers.