Lack of visibility into how our customers consume, generate and export energy in a low voltage environment is a significant impediment to building a smart network. Network visibility, through data on voltage and other crucial measures of network performance, is critical as Essential Energy evolves into sharing energy across a dynamic, smart network rather than being a ‘traffic controller’ of two-way energy flow.
The rise in consumer-led energy generation such as solar panels and batteries is facilitating the necessary ‘smart’ environment whilst also increasing associated challenges with power quality and supply management. These challenges and opportunities will only increase with further electrification of transport and industry. Right now, however, most consumption and usage patterns across our network are hidden from our view behind old technology.
To combat this, our innovation team has implemented a network visibility pilot to explore one solution that will quickly and cost-effectively make our low-voltage network visible and responsive to these power quality challenges. Partnering with Future Grid, we are using their cyber-integrated utility software to navigate our network, visualise the smart meters installed as part of the pilot and visualise the meter data at the transformer and feeder level.
Commencing in March 2021, the trial has already seen benefits beyond expectations by detecting nine potentially deadly ‘loss of neutral’ faults. The trial is also identifying over voltage and under voltage issues as well as non-compliant connections in the pilot network area.
The upsurge in demand for rooftop solar panels has seen a concurrent increase in the risk of non-compliant systems being installed. These non-compliant systems are often programmed to export more than their approved solar export levels into the energy network, presenting safety and power reliability issues for the local community and contributing to increasing network charges.
The NetVis trial is demonstrating our ability to immediately detect non-compliant solar installations. Rather than acting when a network issue occurs, Essential Energy is now able to contact the non-compliant system owners and work with them to align their systems to the local network requirements.