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Phoenix Energy Blog
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Making Grids Smarter for Distributed Systems


Distributed energy systems are often not equipped with automated systems. Most distribution systems which are installed as feeders do work autonomously with occasionally manual intervention during setting changes.

While local capacitor banks do turn their switches on or off based on load signals, there is no automated grid safety or monitoring systems that protect equipment when there is a surge in current. Due to a growing demand for increased reliability and efficiency of grid operations for distributed systems, advanced automated technologies are being incorporated to make grids smarter. Such technologies are known as "distribution automation."

Distribution Automation and its functions

Simply put, distribution automation consists of the whole host of systems that can automate activities such as planning, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of distributed power generation and transmission systems and other interconnected energy devices.

Distribution automation typically relies on other basic systems such as SCADA and ADMS. DA systems can be divided into two layers of operation. The primary layer is concerned with the installation of energy efficient equipment, communication and data recording systems. The secondary layer acts on the data provided by the primary layer and makes changes to the system. Some of the common functions of primary and secondary layers are mentioned below.

Making Grids Smarter for Distributed Systems

Functions of primary layer- One of the major functions of the primary layer is to monitor and control distribution equipment which is installed inside each substation. It provides supervisory control over SCADA systems along with providing substation safety protocols. Added to this primary systems also monitor distributed systems which are connected with feeders. DA platforms come in-built with analysis software that provides real-time insight into the status of distributed energy systems and grid status.

Functions of secondary layer- One of the major functions of the secondary layer is the analysis of various parameters such as adequacy analysis, reliability analysis, contingency analysis, efficiency analysis and coordination of relay protection and distributed systems. It is also responsible for automation of local feeder devices which are present apart separate from the substations. Added to this the secondary layer handles the communications between the on-field crew and local feeder equipment.


Benefits of Distribution Automation

Some of the notable advantages of distribution automation are mentioned below.

  • Reduction in operational costs, maintenance costs and more pricing choices for consumers.
  • Enhanced reliability of power supply and an improvement in the quality of power is ensured through a significant reduction in power outages and by controlling voltage fluctuations in microgrids.
  • Distribution automation systems also improve the safety and security of power plants and transmission systems. By planning for and controlling random voltage fluctuations, distribution automation systems can not only provide safety of grid operators but also expensive and precise equipment.
  • Using distribution automation system results in the optimized use of resources and reduced energy consumption. Combining the effects of distributed systems results in significant positive effects on the environment. The consumers of today are also becoming more and more aware of the environmental damage caused by typical energy systems. Implementing DA systems can thus also improve the image of the energy corporation.

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