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Power Quality Management in Smart Grid-Definition, Importance and Applications
Imbalance in grid power parameters is one of the major causes of end user equipment/appliance failure that puts end users into heavy unplanned costs. Some of the parameters that should be properly managed in order to ensure power delivered to end users is safe include; voltage, frequency, and current. If any of these parameters goes out of balance, it can cause significant problems to the target equipment or device that uses this power.
It is because of these problems that power distribution companies had to come up with solutions of managing the power they deliver to end users. So, these companies are supposed to deliver power that is enough and safe for use by the end users. In this article, I am going to share with you the basic things you need to know about power quality management in smart grids, its importance and how it works.
What is power quality management in a smart grid?
Power quality management in smart grids refers to the regulation of the major energy parameters using computing algorithms to ensure all these parameters are within the standard range (based on standards by regulatory bodies) for end user consumption. The end users could be homes that use the energy to power up their appliances or industries that use it to power up heavy duty electrical equipment.
So, the quality of power is measured based on both the power supplied and what is used by the end user. If the power supplied is exactly what the end user needs, then we regard that power to be of good quality. On the other hand, if the power delivered to the end user is not in line with what their appliances/equipment needs, then that power is of bad quality. The role of a power quality management system is to ensure the power delivered to the final users is of good quality.
With advancements in computing, we now have systems like Vol/Var management (VVM) systems that are used to ensure voltage and reactive power is within the allowable limits for end user consumption. One of the most important components in VVM systems is the VVM software which does all the calculations for optimal settings of voltage and reactive power control devices. These devices include; load-tap changer controllers, regulators and capacitor banks.
Just like any smart device, a smart grid relies on feedback from the power distribution network to take decisions. For instance, voltage and frequency regulation during the day can not be done the same way during the night. This is because power consumption at night is different from power consumption during the day.
Why is power quality management in smart grid so important?
There is heavy investment in power quality management in smart grids and this is done for several reasons. Here are some of the reasons;
" To reduce the risks that would come up due to bad quality power being delivered to the end users. Some of the risks caused by bad quality power are life threatening and some could lead to damage of user equipment/appliances. To reduce all these costly risks, power quality has to be managed.
" To reduce maintenance costs both by the power distributor and the end users. When good quality power is delivered within the entire grid system, there are less damages on both the power distribution equipment and also the appliances/equipment of the end users. This in the end lowers the costs incurred in doing both corrective and planned maintenance. It also reduces the downtime of the equipment hence boosting the productivity of the equipment in the long run.
" It reduces the electrical bills for the end users. In most cases bad quality power leads to inefficient consumption of power by the electrical appliances and equipment. In most cases the devices connected to such power tend to overheat. But remember any heat generated by an electrical appliance/equipment that is not meant to produce heat is power wasted. With more quality power on the grid, such occurrences are reduced which leads to lower costs incurred on power
Basically, power quality management is meant to ensure that the final user of the power is getting the exact power they need in order to avoid the costs I have shared with you above. Today there are so many consumer electronics and other equipment that are so sensitive to any variations in power supplied. This is why power quality management is more relevant today than never before.
Sending poor quality power is no longer an option for utility companies that intend to stay in business longer. That is why they invest a lot in power quality management systems.
How does power quality management in smart grid work?
In smart grid systems, smart meters are installed within the grid network to capture data that mainly includes the important electrical parameters at a particular point in the grid. With this smart meter, the electricity distribution company will be able to know how much voltage every user on the grid is using. With this information, the voltage at the substations will automatically be varied based on the information sent in by the smart meters
Before these smart meters, electricity distribution companies used to rely on engineering estimates to predict the voltage needed by the final users. In most cases they would end up sending a higher voltage to make sure even the last person on the line gets enough power. This would cause issues if some of the people within the distribution are not using the power like they were estimated to use. In the long run, it would lead to poor quality power problems and costs on both the utility companies and the end users.
With smart grid systems, such problems have been eliminated. A smart grid system is fully automated and relies on data from the users through the smart meters to make decisions. So, the voltage, frequency and current on the grid will be determined by the actual data that the smart meters sends to the control center of the grid system.
With the internet becoming cheaper and faster, these smart grid systems are becoming more efficient and reliable in managing power quality in a distribution network. This is because all communications are done in real time with limited latency.