ESA’s Enersyn project is making use of satellite navigation (satnav) technology to turn normal power grids into smart systems.
The project aims to harness satnav to insert an intelligent sense of place and time to power grids.
It will also be used to provide early warning of potentially dangerous electricity network failures.
“Power grids are still operated in a very traditional way,” says David Brain of Powerline Technologies, a participating member of the Enersyn project.
“There is literally no instrumentation in most local low-voltage substations – the first time a distribution company knows about a power outage is when a customer rings them up. And there are more than a million of these substations across the UK alone.”
Making this lack of data an urgent issue is the fact that more is being asked of power grids than ever before.
Consumers are in favor of power grids that generate power with household solar panels or wind turbines, and are compatible with electric vehicles as well.
“The power distribution system was never built to handle these technologies,” says Brain.
“It’s a big concern among electric companies that power is being taken in and out in ways that the grid was not designed to do.”
The Enersyn project has taken all of this into consideration and has begun developing a standardised monitoring platform for subsystems and power lines.
The platform is designed to take snapshots of electricity current and voltage some hundred times per second when brief power surges occur.
The project will apply ESA’s hard-won expertise from Galileo and Europe’s EGNOS satellite augmentation system to new satellite navigation as well as positioning, navigation and timing challenges.
Enersyn will focus on creating a resilient timing source for monitoring, enabling accurate time stamping of the data the system gathers, to capture a truly accurate snapshot for follow-up data analysis.
Once this is done, the Enersyn consortium will develop machine learning algorithms and design advanced monitoring sensors.
Image and content: ESA