Linking Grid Dead Ends Hikes Stability

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 @ 03:06 PM gHale

By connecting dead ends, it is possible to significantly increase power grid stability.

As the input from renewable sources is volatile because of the uncertainty of things like how much and how hard the wind blows or if the sun is shining, there’s a higher risk of local power instabilities and potential blackouts.

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In an effort to curb those issues, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Potsdam, Germany, created a novel concept from nonlinear systems analysis called basin stability. They found by connecting dead ends can significantly increase power grid stability. The findings ended up confirmed via a case study of the Scandinavian power system.

“The cheapest and thus widespread way to implement new generators into a high-voltage power grid is by simply adding single connections, like creating dead-end streets in a road network,” said Peter J. Menck, lead author of a study on the subject.

To test the resulting system’s stability, the scientists simulated large perturbations in a standard electrical engineering model. “We found that in the power grid nodes close to the dead-end connections, the ability to withstand perturbations is largely reduced,” Menck said.

“Yet it turned out that this can be easily repaired by judiciously adding just a few transmission lines,” Menck said. Apparently, the provision of alternative routes in the network should allow for a dispersion of perturbation effects. Thereby, technical protection mechanisms at the different nodes of the grid can deal with problems, while dead ends make the effects culminate at single points of the network.

These new insights are the result of applying for the first time the novel mathematical concept of basin stability developed at PIK.

“From energy grids to the Amazon jungle or human body cells, systems possess multiple stable states,” said co-author Jürgen Kurths who leads the institute’s research domain “Transdisciplinary Methods and Concepts.”

“To understand blackouts, forest dieback, or cancer, it is crucial to quantify the stability of a system – and that’s precisely what we’re now able to do,” he said.

The concept conceives a system’s alternative states as points in a mountainous landscape with steep rocks and deep valleys. The likelihood that a system returns to a specific sink after suffering a severe blow depends on how big this basin is.

“Compared to the potential costs of a blackout, adding a few transmission lines would definitely be affordable,” said co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK. “The new study gives just one example that innovative solutions, in our case even based on already existing technology, can indeed help master the transformation of our energy system, for many good reasons such as climate stabilization.”

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