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Monday, December 14, 2009

Distribution network

The mid-voltage and low-voltage power distribution network is far from being capable of accommodating the growing share of decentralized renewable energy sources. Among the main issues that have to be tackled are
  • intermittency and unreliability of renewable energy sources
  • coordination of power electronic interfaces in the network
  • voltage and frequency stability in the presence of distributed power supplies
  • quality of service, reactive power and harmonic compensation
  • sensing, metering, and fault detection
  • participation of a large number of actors in the energy market.
Today's approach to these issues is centralized and poorly-automated.
There are strong and convincing reasons that suggest that a decentralized approach and a distributed architecture should be preferred: scalability, efficient use of shared resources (for example lines capacity and communication channels), robustness to failure and malicious behaviour, computational efficiency, just to mention some.

The proposed research activity is then twofold: first, designing distributed algorithms for sensing and controlling the elements of a distribution networks (in particular intelligent power electronics) in a safe, efficient, and reliable way, and for dealing with the intermittency and the unreliability of distributed generation, for example creating what are called “virtual power plants” - aggregate of distributed generators capable of taking part in the energy market; second, to design a distributed architecture in which these algorithm are embedded, allowing to efficiently tackle the diverse and challenging issues that characterize distribution networks in the presence of distributed generation. The ultimate goal is to obtain a layered/hierarchical architecture in which different algorithms run asynchronously at different levels, from power electronic control for system stability to reactive and harmonic balancing and compensation, from metering and sensing to unit commitment and dispatch. The resulting architecture must also define an information pattern and a series of interfaces among these algorithms, and ensure that optimality of operation is not lost under this layered approach (or characterize the amount of loss).