Power Quality in Distribution Networks and the IoT Revolution


Power Quality & High Voltage Monitoring

Power quality is critically important to Distribution Networks. And, like most things in life, the quality is more important than quantity.

The electrical power that is delivered to homes and businesses is increasingly generated from a mix of sources. These sources range from the carbon based non-renewables (gas & coal) to renewable sources such as wind and solar. Such diversity in power generation can cause problems with overall power quality.

Power Quality – the importance of data

Ben Markillie, Technical Director at Argand Solutions explains:

“Perhaps the best way to explain ‘Power Quality’ is to think of the electricity in the grid in much the same way as water in a pipe. What you want out of the pipe is a nice, smooth and consistent flow of water. You want a water flow that does not stop and start or randomly build and lose pressure. It’s the same kind of picture with electrical power. All power consumers need a non-varying and stable supply.  Anything else can cause damage to electrical devices which will create a negative financial impact. Problems can also impact wellbeing, from the simple flickering of lights, for example, through to more serious risks associated with electrical failure.”

Power Quality & the Impact of Renewables

Renewables negatively impact network power quality.  As the installed capacities of renewables and energy storage increase, the need to understand the effects on power quality will become more critical.  Western Power Distribution, like many DNO’s, is facing this challenge.  As a result, they need to understand the real-time effects on power quality to ensure the real-time risks can be mitigated.

Fraser Durham, Commercial Director at Argand picks up the story:

Western Power Distribution (WPD), the largest network operator in the UK, has to be at the forefront of understanding the network impacts of a more diverse generation mix. One of their focal areas is in how the interaction of batteries (energy storage) and large-scale solar will impact the Grid. The question is – will the two assets work together to produce negative power quality consequences? Our role at Argand has been, and is, to establish and measure the real-time implication of these assets. What will be their impact on the “health” WPD’s network.”

Power Quality & the Internet of Things (IoT)

So, how have we achieved providing WPD with real-time power quality data and what are the considerations?

The key aspect of this project is that Argand have provided an IoT-focused power quality monitoring and communications solution. This solution then feeds data into Argand’s data analytics platform. WPD can then access datain real-time from Argand’s platform  to enable immediate power quality risk analytics. This, in turn, is driving better intelligence to proactively maintain their network’s health. In total, WPD can now analyse, in real-time, the power quality impacts of the interaction of large-scale solar, batteries and on-site demand.

Power Quality Data Challenges Overcome

In addition, from the 11kV sub-station, 800 data points are being collected, every 10 minutes. The data is managed and sent over the GPRS network through the use of leading-edge IoT technologies. Together ensuring a 100% data integrity rate from the remote location. This is a fair bit to take in and a significant communication challenge to overcome.

Fraser explains further:

“Real time monitoring without interruption is one thing, and the amount of data is another.  We are talking about 115,000 data measurements every day – and all this performance information is stored and managed by Argand in the cloud. However, underlying all of this is the fact that we need to get the data out of the remote site and into a place where it can be stored and managed. This will enable WPD’s engineers to access the data efficiently. Again, there is major innovation behind our approach. Using pre-processing and innovative machine to machine (M2M) technology, we are able to transfer this significant amount of power quality data with ease. This can then be accessed by any of the WPD engineers via Argand’s analytics application on their mobiles and / or computers. In addition, further internal analysis can be undertaken by WPD using Argand’s API.”

Power Quality Benefits to Western Power Distribution

The result is that all WPD engineers have access to live power quality data. This has the required level of granularity to enable them to make decisions that will add significant value to managing their network.

Ben adds:

“with this solution, WPD have real time access for all the power quality variables up to the 63rd harmonic. In addition, our analytics application enables them to create bespoke risk indices. These indices and the associated analytics provide a really powerful approach to risk management for their network assets.”

Furthermore, Argand’s solution was provided with no need for a power shut down due to an innovative current transformer (CT) solution. This ensured that there was no interruption to WPD’s delivery.
To find out more about how Argand Solutions can help solve your energy questions click here.