Smart grid technology helps to manage network voltage
With the rapid uptake of solar PV, the low-voltage residential electricity network is being required to perform in ways it was never originally designed to perform, resulting in problems including worsening voltage regulation. Hetech, an electronics design and manufacturing company, recently teamed up with power management company EcoJoule to help resolve this issue.
Solar PV systems are generating at their maximum during the middle of the day when residential consumption is typically low; this then causes voltage rises on the low-voltage networks causing solar inverters to trip, reducing the ability of solar panels to export clean energy. This sustained delivery of excess voltage levels can also reduce appliance lifetime and efficiency.
EcoJoule’s EcoVAR is a low-voltage static compensator (STATCOM) that helps utilities to manage the voltage on low-voltage networks. When the voltage is high (typically when PV output is high and loads are low), the EcoVAR sinks inductive reactive power to reduce the voltage. When the voltage is low (typically during peak load periods), the product sources capacitive reactive power to boost the voltage. Thus, the network voltage profile is flattened and the voltage swing reduced.
By improving voltages, the EcoVAR increases the ability of solar to export clean energy. The benefits can be felt throughout the whole solar/energy supply chain, with households benefiting from better energy utilisation, higher solar export volumes and lower bills.
Hetech teamed up with EcoJoule to manufacture the PCB boards for the EcoVAR and build the products ready for distribution. With many installations already complete in multiple states, the technology is predicted to continue to roll out nationally over the coming months.
EcoJoule said that the product has shown success both in Australia and overseas, stating, “Ausgrid has installed a three-phase EcoVAR unit from EcoJoule Energy at Nords Wharf, which has successfully reduced the voltage fluctuation to consumers, also preventing the potential tripping of solar systems and delivering reliable outcomes in the delivery of power.
“In the area where the EcoVAR unit has been installed there is a significant increase in the amount of solar energy that can be exported into the grid, virtually eliminating constraints on existing solar customers.”
Not only is the technology improving the quality of electricity in these areas, it is also helping businesses like Ausgrid work towards a net zero future. Ausgrid’s Executive General Manager of Asset Management, Junayd Hollis, said, “Ausgrid has a diverse and complex network and we are looking to use innovative technology to improve service quality for all of our communities.
“That’s why we commenced these trials with the EcoVAR units, to improve customer voltage and quality of electricity supply. This is an integral part of our actions to increase hosting capacity for rooftop solar as well as other distributed energy resources (DER) and reduce costs on our network. In turn, this helps de-carbonise the grid and work towards a net zero future.”
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