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New Technologies of Active Distribution Network in Smart Grid

Zheng Chen, Student Member, IEEE, Xiangning Xiao, Member, IEEE, and Chao Luo

State Key Laboratoryfor Alternate Electrical Power System with Renewable Energy Sources North China Electric Power University Beijing, China

Abstract-With the rapid development of smart grid, large amount of distributed energy resources(DER) integrate into traditional distributed network, that makes the network faces some new challenges. This paper firstly describes the practical, science and technology issues of modern distribution network, then introduces the implication of active distribution network and several new concepts. New technologies for the development of active distributed network are also analyzed. Integrated application of these new technologies will provide an extensive and far-reaching significance.

Keywords-active participation; smart distribution network; automatic optimization; distributed energy resources(DER); coordinated utilization



Due to the development needs of digital economy society, the requirement of safety, reliability, economy for power grid is increasing, which makes smart grid becomes the focus of attention among the related practitioners in power system [1-3]. It is an urgent demands for user-oriented distribution network to improve the utilization efficiency of power and quality of service, and that becomes an important part of the smart grid research. When building the new power grid mode in future, it should enhance the importance of the distribution network in power system [4]. However, from the perspective of the existing infrastructure and applications of advanced technology, traditional single direction power transmission mode causes the fact that the construction of distribution network is lagging far behind the transmission grid [5-6].

Development of the distribution network faces challenges such as energy demand, security and quality requirement [7-9]. When improving the application of science and technology application and management level, some new concepts and technologies should be gradually formed.



Direct utilization of traditional energy sources (such as fossil oil and natural gas, etc.) turns to secondary electric energy, that makes the increase of electric power demand and the characteristic of new electrical equipment becomes more complex. For example, the electric railway, city subway, light rail train(LRT) and electric vehicles(EVs) constitute the high-

This work is supported by the National High Technology Research and Development of China 863 Program (201IAAIIA279, 201IAAIIA280), Project Supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China


978-1-4673-4933-8/13/$31.00 ©2013 IEEE

power electric traction drive system with particular characteristics, and varieties of commercial and household equipments constitute new features load.

One solution of energy conservation and emission reduction is to make the distribution network active, which will lead to the deep change of the grid structure and the way of control and management. Under the basic conditions of safety, reliability and economy, if the number and capacity of DER increasing in power grid, that requires the enhancement of tolerance and economic utilization ratio of diverse power source in some aspects as planning and design, operation control, as well as market management.

The power quality and reliability of smart distribution network need to be promoted by economic levers. Firstly, power supply of smart distribution network is highly reliable, whose reliability reach up to 99.99%, and in some area even up to 99.9999%. Secondly, electric power needs to be supplied by different quality grades, prices of electric power should be determined according to competitive power quality.

Smart distribution network should possess the operation ability of automatic balance seeking of multi-indices and self­ monitoring. Three main types of the network's optimizing indexes include high security, high power quality, high efficiency.

The objective function=min {average annual outage rate of

users, unqualified rate of voltage, transmission losses, network

construction costs}


However, the present distribution network structure in China is relatively weak, equipment aging and the coverage of distribution automation is less than 9%.


At present, electrical infrastructures in most countries of the world are in the form that a large-scale power generation centre connect with the transmission grid closely, and power can be transmitted to users through distribution network in single direction. However, new trends change toward distributed generation development, which makes energy conversion system more closely to the energy consumption area, and a few large power stations are replaced by many small and medium power generation units.

Smart grid is a intelligent power system with advantages of automatic balance seeking, self-monitoring, and it is able to accept any convertible energy and transmit power to terminal users in various forms [10]. Fundamental reasons of developing smart grid are expected to achieve lower energy costs, higher reliability, high energy efficiency, higher power quality as well as energy independence. Many new concepts in power grid emerge as the development in this field, the typical example is active smart distribution network [11].

Active distribution network is proposed to make traditional passive distribution network infrastructure adapt to large numbers of new distributed participants (generation units and power consumers) which expected to emerge in the distribution network, as Figure 1 shows. It is characterized by the following aspects, such as rapid change of demands and generation, electric power service provided by distributed participants, bi­ directional energy flow, the enhanced information interaction, application of smart electrical equipment, etc. That is, it needs controllable and scalable network structure.

Information Flow
Information Flow

Figure 1.

Active distribution network in the future


A. Admitting multiple DERflexibly and making good use of them

DER can be divided into two types (controllable and uncontrollable). Conventional primary energy such as small thermal power generation and small hydropower which are controllable can improve the reliability of power supply, regulate and improve power quality. Due to the characteristics of randomness, fluctuation and intermittent, uncontrollable primary energy such as wind power, solar power, can influence the safe operation of power grids and cause power quality problems.

Under the framework of smart grid construction, distribution network should play a significant role in fully accepting and making good use of local renewable energy and distributed generation which constituted of new energy generation. That will be a outstanding development.

To achieve the interactivity between distribution network and user, new features of user-oriented should be concluded:

Large and middle microgrids which contain DER.

Residential microgrids which contain renewable energy power generation or energy storage system (ESS).

Active management of active loads. Coordinated control strategies should be taken according to the generation characteristics of different micro power sources.

Safe and high quality power supply for sensitive loads. When making full use of renewable energy generation, power with high quality can be provided for sensitive loads with special needs by utilizing of controllable DER.

With sufficient and high level of information technology, distribution network will admit multiple DER flexibly and make good use of them. Until then, a really intelligent and economical interactive distribution network will be shown.

B. Integration of advanced technologies and equipments








distribution generation technology, distribution network with advanced automation technology, intelligent information and

communication technology are important driving forces to promote the traditional distribution network become more smart.

Based on before-mentioned technologies, then application of advanced power electronic devices, fast breaking equipments, intelligent protection devices, sensors with good properties, advanced monitoring system for traditional distribution network, and improve the level of comprehensive automation, management and electricity marketization, that makes distribution network support the connection of a large number of distributed generators, renewable energies, energy storage devices and microgrids in different forms. Until then, the active intelligent network is shaped, enhancing the bi­ directional interaction with users and realizing optimal operation of this network.

Relying on advanced metering infrastructure(AMI), the function of data measurement, collection, storage, analysis and bi-directional transmission will be achieved by smart meters. With optimizing asset utilization of the network, high quality power will be provided to consumers.

C. DER penetration improvement and virtual power plant management

Virtual power plant(VPP) is a technology proposed by European scholars which used to make large numbers of distributed generation connect to the grid and achieve function of DG penetration improvement. VPP consists of small or ultra small DGs and flexible loads through the communication network, and monitored by advanced power management system. It focuses on biomass power generation, photovoltaic power generation, fuel cells, combined heat and power(CHP),

wind power and small hydro power etc. By using VPP technology, it is able to coordinate and complement the differences of multiple power sources. Power supply should in line with the principle of proximity to reduce transmission losses and adjust load requirements quickly according to the actual needs.

From the function perspective, VPP can be divided into commercial virtual power plants(CVPP) and technical virtual power plants(TVPP). As an agent of distributed generators, CVPP participate in energy trading of the power market, the balance trade, ancillary services trade and other services. Based on the distribution automation systems and energy management system, TVPP implement the internal coordination of various DGs, economic optimization and accident handling according to CVPP's generation plan. With this technology, power market and operation control of DGs can be centralized administrated. Considering the characteristics of multiple DGs, making controllable primary energy (especially micro-gas turbine, CHP, distributed ESS) integrate with uncontrollable energy (such as wind power, photovoltaic power, etc.) and realizing unified internal coordinated control of each unit, that makes VPP's external characteristics represent as follows:

To be a large-capacity power plants that participate in the auction of power market.

To be a controllable power plant for the transmission grid.

Therefore, the VPP technology can improve the penetration rate of DGs, reduce the required balance and reserved capacity of them, embody the economical efficiency.

D. DGs participate in regulating network's voltage and frequency


microgrid and provide power support to the grid, that is the best way of developing the energy efficiency of them.









Some European countries have made regulations for power factor limit of DGs in rated power. Ireland requires wind turbine that more than 5MW should have the ability to participate in voltage regulation and reactive power management. British requires wind turbine output reactive power to achieve voltage regulation. Distribution network management organization of Germany requires wind farms operate in a constant power factor or a given reactive power, and participate the voltage control. The node voltage or the reactive power parameter can be set by the dispatch centre.

As figure 2 shows, a centralized voltage control method based on DG and reactive power compensation source which achieving the voltage coordination by multi-objective optimization is proposed. Firstly, the voltage bus that has great effect on other nodes in the area is selected as pilot node. Then voltage deviation of the pilot node is ensured, and the active or reactive power output of controllable DGs are adjusted according to the centralized voltage control mode of multi­ objective optimization. The set value of other reactive power sources is also adjusted, so that the pilot node voltage remains

constant substantially, maintammg the voltage level of the whole distribution network and reactive power in a good state.

®' Pilot node --- - - 00 - - - - coordination control
Pilot node
- -
- -

Figure 2.

The centralized voltage control mode of DG and reactive power compensation sources

Figure 3 shows a voltage control mode based on DGs' self­ adaption. Each distributed power plant use local measuring device to monitor the voltage change state, and adjust active and reactive power output adaptively. That makes grid­ connected nodes are in the acceptable limits of different operating conditions, and participate in the optimization of voltage control.

HV/MV ' � Smart -y distribution ---- Intelligent agent unit .------.------­ . .--'---.-- • (
agent unit
( P,Q,

Figure 3.

The distributed adaptive voltage control mode of DG

E. Active management and control mode in demand side

From the demand side perspective, users immersed the "passive state" in the past, consuming electricity unconsciously and have no other choice. Now, implement of price mechanism makes electricity optional for users during peak and valley time period, participating in orderly outages and orderly supply, especially when users posses both DGs or storage capability. That is called "active state".

In the future, with the expansion of DGs, users can be integrated as a "virtual user" or join in "virtual power plants" when they consume power. Peak and valley modulation of loads, power generation or energy storage are realized according to local market conditions, management systems, and feasible technology. In this case, it presents the "leading

active state". For example, large-scale of pure electric vehicles (EVs) or hybrid vehicles charge and discharge orderly will contribute to supervise a complex grid.

Under the state of active management and control mode in demand side, utilization of point-to-point communication network between grid intelligent terminals, that will enhance the distribution network's ability of self-healing and reconstruction, improve the reliability and power quality.

F. Coordinated use of renewable energy and new-lype loads

The development of electric vehicles (EVs) is being continuous in the world. As a new type of active load, charging facilities' dynamic characteristics will affect the existing distribution network to a certain extent, but EVs' batteries are important energy storage resources.

Considering the particularity of the new load overall, combining the inherent characteristics and the integrated nature of new energy, DG (such as wind power, solar power and other renewable energy) and energy storage device are applied in the construction EV's charging (or switch) stations. Taking the economy, reliability and energy efficiency as controllable objectives, multi-objective optimization and multi-attribute decision making are adopted for the model analysis to achieve the optimal configuration.

Comprehensive application of information and communication technology, intelligent technology and economic incentives, coordinated utilization of this new active load and renewable energy will stabilize the grid load fluctuations, play an active role on energy efficiency, stable power output, peak load shifting, regional balance, ensuring security and stability.

G. Coexistence of multiple operation modes in distributed network

From the view of development, the existing distribution network will develop into active network with coexistence of multiple operation modes which are micro-network mode, active mode and interconnected mode. Present microgrid mode is mostly reflected as a small independent grid which consisted by DGs connected to users or energy storage unit. However, the active mode is an evolution of the existing passive system, which adds a large number of distributed power plants and power flows bidirectional in optimal ways. Interconnected mode expands the concept of active mode that collect lower­ level regional micro-network and active network integrate to the upper grid. While in the upper grid, each lower grid is regarded as an active node. Grid of this type will depend on FACTS (Flexible Alternative Current Transmission Systems) technology to control the power flow.











electric distribution network development, and it will become an important part of smart grid development framework in the future. Integrated application of new technologies will provide an extensive and far-reaching significance.


This work is supported by the National High Technology Research and Development of China 863 Program (2011AAIIA279, 2011AA11A280), Project Supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (51277067).



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