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Digital simulation secures Australia’s energy future

Photo: Credit: UNSW

Researchers and industry partners have been raving about UNSW’s Real Time Digital Simulation (RTS) Laboratory, which has the largest real-time simulator in Australia.

According to a recent press release, the Lab offers extremely powerful equipment that enables the digital simulation of power electronics and power systems in real time.

The Lab has extended simulation capabilities in the areas of:

  1. High-voltage DC networks
  2. Power system protection testing
  3. Smart grids
  4. Microgrids
  5. Renewable energy systems
  6. Distributed generation
  7. Power electronics
  8. Control system testing
  9. Hardware-in-the-loop testing

Researchers and industry partners are able to do a wide range of investigations on energy transitions because the Lab has real-time simulators from major hardware providers and critical equipment.

Real-time simulation is valuable

A Senior Lecturer at UNSW Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications who runs the Lab claims that the value of real-time simulation is twofold.

Firstly, when power systems become huge, normal simulations become too slow to be useful.

A powerful real-time processing system is important in order to model the operation of a power system, power electronic devices or power electronic converters in a reasonable amount of time.

The processing capacity has provided the opportunity to see interactions that would not normally be able to. Because of this, it can be dubbed as a ‘power-oriented supercomputer’.

Secondly, the real-time simulation enables researchers to see the real behaviour of other hardware connected to the system, which opens quite a lot of opportunities.

For instance, they can model a very large power system, in simulation but also with hardware, in order to determine how it can be controlled.

Moreover, they can also see if a protection device or inverter from a solar PV/wind farm is operating in the way it is expected to before being deployed into a real system.

Real world application

A South Australian transmission system operator attests to the Lab’s capabilities as it had worked with the facility in two of its major projects.

Responsible for more than 5,600km of high-voltage electricity transmission lines, the company needed to verify the standard design for transmission line protection.

The Labs served as a great tool for this purpose because of the real-time feedback it provides on both protection devices and power system operating conditions.

These conditions include weak-in-feed, high resistive faults, evolving faults and cross-country faults.

Once the protection devices were proven to perform satisfactorily under these conditions, the engineers would be confident to deploy the standard design to other projects.

The company also verified their series capacitor compensated transmission line protection system through the Lab.

The series capacitor controllers were connected in the closed loop testing system to validate the performance of the entire scheme.

Once the system was tested as satisfactory, it was placed into service and operated correctly.

Assisting Australia’s energy future

A benefit gained from using the Lab was being able to simulate very complex network scenarios and interact with protection devices in real-time.

Companies or organisation that might be interested in the capabilities of the Lab include utility companies, transmission system operators, distribution system operators, and developers of renewable energy projects.

As new technologies substitute the old, and digital ecosystems come into play in the energy domain, it is great to be in a position where it is possible to assist those creating Australia’s energy future.

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