Power system automation and analysis tools
September 22, 2022

This post is one of the articles published by a small cohort within our UK team – including Dr. Mahmoud Elkazaz, Dr. Carlos Ferrandon-Cervantes, Raj Hirani, Jonathan Cervantes and Andrew Eviston. This group meets regularly to collaborate on topical issues of the day, shares the researching and writing effort across the team, and presents internally before publishing.

Power system analysis and automation software have come a long way from the 1970s. In a world without power system analysis software, the life of a power systems engineer was much different than it is today. Performing calculations the old-fashioned way took up a lot of time—not to mention adding the risk of human error that comes with using manual processes.

The leap from performing calculations using a basic spreadsheet to executing advanced calculations based on industry standards and codes has been significant. And while they represent a big advance for the industry, power system analysis software packages still have limitations on what they can perform for the electrical industry.

In electrical power systems, electricity supply must be balanced with electricity demand and network losses to maintain safe, stable and reliable system operation. Today there are three broad challenges for power systems with a high percentage of renewable energy: Stability, flexibility, and adequacy.

The development of automation tools has enabled engineers to efficiently perform thousands of studies to represent network operations and system responses under different scenarios. These tools also help analyze the large amounts of data generated by these studies.

Traditional power system analysis software

Each power system software has its own individual benefits, such as language scripting options, equipment, and model databases—but they also have drawbacks. These include non-intuitive interfaces, restricted specific calculations on the software, or dependencies on a certain file type. Engineers have created open-source tools that help with some of the issues that power system engineers come across, bypassing the expense of obtaining new power system analysis software for a specific task.

MATLAB[1] users can access PSAT (Power System Analysis Toolbox) to evaluate the dynamic network in an electrical power system. Grid Cal[2], an open-source tool, provides means for calculation of short circuit and power flow analysis. Several companies in recent years are stepping up to integrate with these open-source and tailor-made tools to realize the full capabilities of their software.

Advanced power system analysis tools

Some of the tools that a power systems engineer may use can be classified into two categories: Proprietary software and open-source software. Proprietary software involves the use of a license, and open-source software does not. Many Transmission System Operators (TSOs), Independent System Operators (ISOs), and Distribution Network Operators (DNO’s) rely on proprietary software. The advantage of using proprietary software is the extensive libraries of models that developers and TSO engineers can rely on, making their work easier.

But other powerful open-source software is available. Sometimes these solutions are preferred in academia rather than in industry, although many TSOs have gradually incorporated them into their frameworks. One example of open-source power systems analysis software is Powers Systems.jl, a suite of power system analysis tools that runs on top of the Julia programming language[3] and has been gaining attention from users in academia[4].

When it comes to compatibility, TSOs rely on software that can help seamlessly translate files from frameworks like PSS®E into a PSCAD environment[5]. This interoperability is becoming more common today due to the different timescales that are needed to analyze the grid–especially given the large penetration of converter-interfaced generation systems like wind and solar.

Why we need to develop tools

Power system analysis tools can help to validate design concepts and optimize performance using system modeling, grid connection, power plant design, etc. Power system tools are classified as long-term and short-term modeling, which include operational network management modeling and real-time modeling. Depending on the models, assumptions, data and operation ranges, the software selected must perform a specific activity within the power system.

With utilities quickly moving forward to integrate with new energy technologies, developing tools that can support next-generation projects is essential. These tools must demonstrate a diverse set of functionality to help design networks that have capabilities ranging from steady state to dynamic, electromagnetic transient, harmonics hybrid analysis, and real-time modeling[6].

Power system analysis tools developed by PSC

PSC has deep expertise in developing power system tools such as the HV Network Analysis Tool, which carries out the power system analysis and network reinforcement requirements associated with 11kV systems[7]. The tool has been developed for WPD using Python and PSS®SINCAL, and has a graphic user interface (GUI).

The PSC Electricity Flexibility and Forecasting Systems tool provides the necessary system capability to enable a DNO to manage DSO transitions by delivering a solution that enables networks to be actively managed using flexibility services[8]. The tool has also been developed for WPD using Python, with PSS®E software and a GUI. PSC has also developed for WPD a virtual STATCOM tool to determine whether it is possible to improve the network voltages and release network capacity by controlling the power factor of generators already connected to the 11kV and 33kV network[9]. Collectively, these generators will go on to form a Virtual STATCOM.

Finally, PSC’s firm access quantity (FAQ) tool for generators uses the Incremental Transfer Capability (ITC) methodology. This tool, using automated PSSE software and a Python interface, models the incremental impact of a new generator connecting to North Ireland (NI) transmission against a variety of seasonal system scenarios.

PSC can help

PSC’s global energy experts will help your organization deliver innovative solutions surrounding. Please find out more about our capabilities in this area and contact us to talk about the first steps.

[1] https://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab.html

[2] https://www.gridcal.net/welcome

[3] https://julialang.org/

[4] Powersystems.jl [Online] https://nrel-siip.github.io/PowerSystems.jl/latest/

[5] Etran software [Online] http://www.electranix.com/software/

[6] https://www.oedigital.com/news/454966-electrical-integration-bringing-process-and-power-together

[7] https://www.westernpower.co.uk/projects/energy-planning-integrated-with-councils-epic

[8] https://www.pscconsulting.com/success-story/electricity-flexibility-and-forecasting-systems-tool-f

[9] https://www.westernpower.co.uk/projects/virtual-statcom