Renewable energy adoption from power system protection lens

In English

The fight against climate change demands innovation! Here at the FREESI Laboratory of the University of Vaasa, we are at the forefront of the green revolution. We are all aware of the environmental challenges caused by global warming, which is why countries like Finland are aggressively pursuing renewable energy sources such as wind turbines. Finland has set an ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2035, surpassing even the EU’s target of 2050. This is fantastic news for the environment, but integrating these variable energy sources smoothly into existing power grids requires a smarter solution.

The challenge of renewables for grid protection

Think of it this way – unlike a coal plant, which can provide a steady flow of electricity, wind power is much more variable, just like the wind itself! Wind speeds can change dramatically throughout the day, impacting the magnitude and direction of electricity flow in the grid. This constant fluctuation may affect the grid’s protection systems, which are designed for a steadier flow. Imagine a strong gust of wind – great for generating power, but the grid needs to adapt quickly to these changes. This is where FREESI Lab steps in! We are developing adaptive power system protection schemes, which act like a smart thermostat for the grid. These systems continuously monitor the electricity flow and adjust settings in real-time to guarantee the continuity of supply for customers. Here’s why it is important. With adaptive protection, your home or business gets consistent supply of electricity even with variable renewable sources such as wind and solar, because it can avoid mis-operation or mal-operation of protection devices and if there is a fault, only isolate the faulted section.

Adaptive centralised protection for renewable integration

The concept of adaptive protection isn’t new, but recent advancements are making it a more viable option for future grids. Faster computers, improved communication networks, and clearer industry standards are paving the way for a future where grids can handle a higher percentage of renewable energy. This is crucial, especially considering the rapid push towards renewables. According to Euronews, Finland’s wind power capacity saw a staggering 75% increase in 2022 alone, with 427 new turbines adding a total of 2,430 megawatts of power to the grid. It’s anticipated that at least 28% of the nation’s electricity needs will be met by wind power in 2025. However, traditional power system protection designs have often been too expensive or labour-intensive to modify frequently in order to adapt to the changing nature of renewable energy sources.

Adaptive protection systems offer several advantages: adaptive systems can quickly isolate faults, minimising damage to equipment and ensuring continuous operation of the grid. Studies such as those by J. S. Thorp (1993) and E. D. Detjen (1988) have also shown that adaptive protection offers a significant benefit-to-cost ratio, ranging from 4.3 to 33, even with high initial investments. Adaptive protection can be clustered into centralised schemes and decentralised ones. We focus on the former. There are many challenges and opportunities associated with the implementation of centralised schemes in power systems.

Let’s take a closer look to benefits: 1) Efficiency and cost savings: Centralised systems combine various protection functions in one device, streamlining engineering, commissioning, maintenance, and relay testing. This translates into reduced overall spending, improved asset management, faster repair times, and effective spare part management, with lifecycle cost savings of up to 15% according to the study conducted by Ganoo 2) Data-driven operations: Centralised data storage allows for non-time-critical applications to be processed in the cloud, while time-critical applications are handled at the edge of the grid. This enables remote data access, faster fault response times at the edge, and utilization of centralized data for machine learning-based fault prediction. 3) Advanced technologies: 5G technology can be used for wireless edge computing, enhancing fault location and communication latency to meet the demanding needs of protection applications. Additionally, virtualised centralised protection and control systems offer advantages as edge-running software images. Virtualisation allows software from multiple vendors to be installed on the same hardware, maximising hardware utilisation.

Centralised protection isn’t without its challenges. Cybersecurity measures are crucial to address potential vulnerabilities. Communication link failures and single point of failure scenarios require redundancy solutions like Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) to ensure system reliability. Centralised protection isn’t a magic bullet, but by addressing these challenges, it can significantly improve the security, dependability, speed and selectivity of power system protection schemes. This paves the way for the efficient use of renewable energy sources!

Meysam Pashaei

Doctoral and Project Researcher
Smart Electrical Systems (SES) Research Group, FREESI LAB
School of Technology and Innovations, University of Vaasa

3 kommenttia artikkeliin “Renewable energy adoption from power system protection lens

  1. Really important topic with paractical implications that need to be solved rapidly. This is something that might lead to heated conversations within general public, so it´s important that calm heads search for technical solutions to probelms without forgetting the possible challenges such as cybersecurity.

    Hope to hear more about your research in near future!

  2. After reading this text, I realized how important it is to come up with new ideas to address climate change. The work the FREESI Laboratory is doing on protecting renewable energy sources is impressive. They are focusing on making sure our energy grids can handle these new types of energy. We need to keep improving our energy systems to use more renewable energy.

  3. The challenges of integrating renewable energy into existing power grids and the role of adaptive protection systems are enlightening. It’s clear that innovative approaches like centralized protection are essential for ensuring the stability and efficiency of renewable energy integration. Looking forward to seeing how these advancements shape the future of sustainable energy from the protection point of view!


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