The implementation of a different power distribution network could see an increase in the robustness and resilience of distribution systems during natural disasters, reducing any black-out periods.

New research from a team of academics including Krishneel Prakash, a UNSW Canberra doctoral student, found that implementing an aromatic distribution network would overcome the problems associated with present networks which have seen an increase in both use and reliance on them as the number of natural disasters rises.

“A distribution network is considered as one of the main parts of a power system as it is connected directly to the load centre and can act as a microgrid during an islanding operation,” Krishneel said.

“The concept of integrating both renewable and distributed energy sources at the distribution level is currently of great interest for power system engineers.

“It has been found that the existing networks suffer from various technical and quality issues while they are also vulnerable to the natural disaster and any type of fault in the system. This is where our proposed system comes into play.”

An aromatic distribution network is a network structure based on the chemical structure of the aromatic molecule DDT, of which benzene is the core. DDT was used as a pesticide in the early 1990s because of the strong intermolecular forces bonding its carbon atoms.

The same structure and properties of this compound are used to design the aromatic distribution network, where the carbon atoms of a molecule represent the nodes for the loads and generations, with the single bonding with the overhead distribution line and, of the double, one bond is the overhead line and the other the underground cable.

According to Krishneel, an aromatic network has an automatic self-healing mechanism that reconfigures its structure following any fault, meaning that if a fault occurs at a single-bond overhead transmission line, the benzene structure of an aromatic network starts to behave like a radial network (whereby power is received at the utility supply voltage level by a single, incoming substation).

“However, if a fault occurs at a double-bond lines, the overhead transmission lines are instantly substituted by the underground cables and the operation of the network remains normal, therefore reducing any outages and ensuring a continuing run of power,” he said.

An aromatic network is suitable for distribution level and has various advantages over existing networks with the capability to work with single or multiple faults in the system and it can be converted into microgrid with the integration of renewable sources without any quality issues.

“The implementation of aromatic distribution network will be particularly beneficial for island communities due to its self-healing characteristics. I really feel that this research has enormous potential and offers future directions for designing appropriate distribution networks to face the challenges of next-generation power systems,” he said.

This research is one project in a series of projects related to distribution networks from Krishneel and his team, under the guidance of UNSW Canberra academic Professor Hemanshu Pota, with the aim to solve real industry problems to integrate high renewable energy sources into the existing distribution grids, and to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Other projects include developing strategies to improve power stability and quality to maximize the integration of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) in distribution grids, optimal battery placement, sizing, and management to improve the voltage fluctuation issues in distribution grids and Reactive power control to improve voltage stability of distribution grids.

Configurations of Aromatic Networks for Power Distribution System was published in Sustainability in May and can be viewed here.