The importance of system flexibility in a changing voltage control landscape

System voltage control needs to become adaptable and sustainable

New Zealand's power landscape is changing. There's an increasing focus on sustainability and a low carbon economy. As a result, the power dynamic of who supplies what to the grid is changing — there's a growing shift in consumers distributing power back to the grid as solutions like solar panels become more prominent.   

Customer needs are changing as the demand for decarbonisation gains traction. Although still in the early stages, this period of transition will see the services provided by EDBs grow in importance, especially around the role they play and the services they offer for their local communities. This is not only an exciting opportunity to lead the sustainability charge within their provision of a safe, secure and reliable network, but an opportunity to be at the forefront of positive environmental change in New Zealand.  

EDBs will play a fundamental role in the decarbonisation of New Zealand's economy, and they will need to invest in low carbon technologies as part of their operational and capital expenditures. Now more than ever, EDBs will need to innovate if they're to add flexibility to system voltage control.

"The electricity sector has a key role in driving New Zealand’s transition to a low-carbon future," says Commerce Commission Deputy Chair Sue Begg. "EDBs will need to prepare for a change in how electricity is produced, transported and used. Preparation for decarbonisation is a continuous process for which the requirements will evolve. And there will always be more work to do, and increased expectations."

Achieving a sustainable future means our communities’ requirements and behaviours will and are changing, i.e., electrification of the transport sector, solar, wind, energy storage and management. Innovation in the form of low carbon technologies will play a significant role in delivering efficient distribution services that enable decarbonisation of the economy.

Typically, low carbon technologies are introduced at distribution level, meaning the network’s EDBs manage need to transition from a passive to an active model. Accurate network voltage management is becoming a greater challenge for EDBs to achieve.

So what's the answer — how can these challenges be met?

One option is the static synchronous compensator (STATCOM). They're gaining traction in New Zealand as they're fast-to-implement, can help reduce reliance on costly and time-consuming mechanical processes, and can resolve detrimental voltage stability issues. STATCOMS make use of next-generation technology, and EDBs will benefit from them in several ways, one of which is their increased penetration of renewable energy generation. They're also low-maintenance and generate a smaller footprint, since they replace passive banks of circuit elements by compact electronic converters — an environmentally friendly solution.

Not only that, but STATCOM technology can be purchased in much lower power and voltage ranges, so regardless of operation scale, STATCOMS can help provide voltage regulation deeper into a distribution network.

As connected customers transform their needs and begin their transition to a low carbon economy, EDBs need to meet that demand with flexible, adaptable solutions that will facilitate decarbonisation and the sustainable future of our communities. STATCOMS are one of the more popular low carbon technologies paving the economical way forward for EDBs to accomplish this.  

If you're ready to add flexibility to the management of your infrastructure and you'd like to learn more about how STATCOMS can help you achieve that, let's talk.