Highly-Distributed-Generation AC Power Networks

Motivation: Highly-Distributed-Generation Power Networks of the Future


There is a vision of a future power grid which resembles the internet more closely than it does today's grid, which is dominated by large generators. With highly-distributed-generation and plug-and-play functionally, this power grid may have unusual dynamical behavior.

One of the amazing features of todays power grid is that it contains large sections that operate in effective phase synchrony. The phases of all AC-interconnected generator buses have a synchrony relation (visualized as machines rotating in step). In today's grid, it is actual (reactive) electrical power flowing back and forth which provides the “signaling mechanism” that enables the interactions producing synchrony. A small amount (negligible in today's grid) of this signaling reactive electrical power is lost due to non-zero line resistances.

A natural question is whether this system is scalable to future highly-distributed-generation grids that may be dominated by millions of small generators, rather than todays system made up of thousands of large generators. We've studied (see below) a hypothetical simple model which indicates that the resistive line losses may become unacceptable if the current scheme of using electrical power as the signaling mechanism is maintained. This is a further argument for the use of communications overlays for phase synchrony.

This is joint work with Dennice Gayme and Emma Tegling.

Scalability Study


The setting


A Problem formulation


The result



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