It's a balancing act...
Substations. Your property will most likely be connected to a substation somewhere in your local area via a three-phase ‘feeder cable’. An ideal state for all substations is when the load profile on each phase is balanced and flat(ish) across the day. Currently there are two key problems DNO’s face in the low voltage network, these are imbalanced phases and high load peaks. These problems lead to additional wasteful load, and potential outages/network damage.
When connecting properties to the feeder cables, the DNO’s will try to evenly distribute the number of connections on each phase. But this is not always achieved in practice and some households will consume more than others, and at the same times during the day. This can lead to ‘phase imbalance’ and/or ‘overload’ on one or more phases. Excessive imbalance or overload leads to power cuts and inconvenience to customers. Remedial action traditionally has involved laying bigger or more cables known as ‘reinforcement’, but this is very expensive and disruptive to neighbourhoods. A more economic and less intrusive solution is the rearrangement of a number of properties on the cables to achieve a more optimal distribution of the load. However, this involves a detailed analysis of the load patterns of each connected property that has not been easily available in the past.
At Wheatley we have industry experts among us who have first-hand experience of this and other problems facing the utility companies. We have created a proof-of-concept (POC) tool that shows the benefits of combining different data sets along with some intelligent processing – including network data for each phase (e.g. current, voltage, temperature, etc.) and household half-hourly consumption profiles.
Our POC tool works out how to bring the phases into balance and smooths the peaks in as few physical rearrangements as possible. Why? Because each rearrangement can cost the DNO thousands of pounds – if you multiply this up across a Distribution Network Operator (DNO) area then the costs quickly spiral. There are also times when rearrangements are not practical or cost effective, for example, due to physical factors; the tool can determine the next best way to balance the phases.
As the energy market transforms with new technology becoming available and adopted, consumption patterns will become more volatile as significant loads and local generation are added, for example heat-pumps, electric vehicles, solar panels and home battery storage. As consumption patterns change and grow it is likely to be the case that feeder cables will become significantly imbalanced and overloaded at different times of the day. Remedial action is crucial in tackling problems before they arise and become very costly and disruptive for many.
And that is why we built the Substation Optimisation tool – to create the ideal state of all substations having balanced and flatter profiles.