With an ability to provide unique insights into some key energy transition challenges, UNSW’s Real-Time Digital Simulation Laboratory is in hot demand.

“The primary reason researchers and industry partners are interested in our Lab concerns energy transitions. For example, how to integrate more renewables, or more non-synchronous generation, into the existing electricity grid,” says Georgios Konstantinou, a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications.

“There is a real interest in investigating how the electricity grid needs to change in order to accommodate new sources of energy; what sort of reinforcements are needed in the grid to operate safely and securely; and how different network technologies (such as AC and DC) fit into the picture,” he continues.

Konstantinou, who is also an ARC Early Career Research Fellow, runs the Real Time Digital Simulation (RTS) Laboratory at UNSW which has the largest real-time simulator in Australia. It was established in 2014, and Konstantinou says it offers extremely powerful equipment that enables the digital simulation of power electronics and powers systems in real time.

“What’s most interesting about the facilities we offer is that we have real-time simulators from both major hardware providers, RTDS and OPAL-RT. These, together with other critical equipment in our RTS and power electronics laboratories, enable researchers and industry partners to do a wide range of investigations.”

According to Konstantinou the value of real-time simulation is twofold. Firstly, when power systems become huge, normal simulations become too slow to be useful. A powerful real-time processing system is necessary to be able to model, in a reasonable amount of time, the operation of a power system, power electronic devices or power electronic converters. 

An additional benefit was being able to simulate very complex network scenarios and interact with protection devices in real-time. We were very pleased with the service the UNSW team provided and are looking forward to further collaborations.

Yang Liu, Automation Engineer, ElectraNet

“The processing capacity of our Laboratory gives us the chance to see interactions that we normally wouldn’t be able to do. From this point of view, you can think of it as a ‘power-oriented supercomputer,’” he says.

The second benefit is that real-time simulation enables researchers to see the real behaviour of other hardware connected to the system. This opens quite a lot of opportunities.

“We might model a very large power system (in simulation but also with hardware) to see how we can control it. Or, we can see if a protection device or inverter from a solar PV/wind farm is operating in the way we expect before it is deployed into a real system,” continues Konstantinou.

This last type of test is why ElectraNet, the South Australian transmission system operator, responsible for more than 5,600km of high-voltage electricity transmission lines, approached the RTS Lab to use the equipment. Automation Engineer, Yang Liu, was involved in two major projects that used UNSW’s RTS facility to verify their Secondary Systems design. He says he was highly impressed with the capabilities of the Lab.

“The purpose of the first project was to verify the standard design for transmission line protection. The RTDS is a great tool for this purpose because of the real-time feedback it provides on both protection devices and power system operating conditions,” says Liu.

“These include weak-in-feed, high resistive faults, evolving faults and cross-country faults. Once we had seen the protection devices performing satisfactorily under these conditions, our engineers would be confident to deploy the standard design to other projects.”

ElectraNet also used the RTS Laboratory to verify their series capacitor compensated transmission line protection system. “During the verification process, the series capacitor controllers were also connected in the closed loop testing system to validate the performance of the entire scheme. Once the system was tested as satisfactory, it was placed into service and operated correctly,” he explains.

Liu says ElectraNet became interested in working with UNSW because the facilities were exactly what they needed to complete their projects. “ElectraNet benefitted greatly from the confidence we gained in knowing exactly how our systems would perform,” he says.

“An additional benefit was being able to simulate very complex network scenarios and interact with protection devices in real-time. We were very pleased with the service the UNSW team provided and are looking forward to further collaborations.”

According to Konstantinou, other companies or organisations who might be interested in the capabilities of the Lab include utility companies, transmission system operators, distribution system operators, and developers of renewable energy projects.

“As new technologies substitute the old, and digital ecosystems come into play in the energy domain, it’s great to be in a position where we can assist those who are creating Australia’s energy future,” he says.


More information

UNSW Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications host the largest Real-time Digital Simulation Laboratory in Australia with extended simulation capabilities in the areas of:

  • High-voltage DC networks
  • Power system protection testing
  • Smart grids
  • Microgrids
  • Renewable energy systems
  • Distributed generation
  • Power electronics
  • Control system testing
  • Hardware-in-the-loop testing

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Georgios Konstantinou or visit our website.