Reliable electricity supply forms a one of the basic requirements of modern 21st Century life. Addressing the challenges of low-carbon supply and energy availability will most likely require an offshore electricity network, which is controlled to support our existing infrastructure. Enabling this necessary offshore network is the goal of this proposal. The technology needed to achieve such a solution is so-called Voltage-Source High-Voltage DC Transmission (VSC-HVDC): DC connections using converter stations with the latest state-of-the-art, high-voltage semiconductor power processing technology. Only such stations have the required flexibility, compactness offshore and ability to transmit power over long sub-sea cables.
However our experience with such technology is limited to point-to-point systems. Few networks (so called multi-terminal systems) have been built. No large networks (so-called DC grids) have been constructed. Very little research has been published into how to control such systems. There is a shortage of information on how to make large offshore networks ‘work’. However many industrial and academic organizations have highlighted the substantial potential benefits in terms of reduced cost, improved reliability and greater functionality which could be offered by such DC offshore networks to our existing electricity infrastructure.
This EPSRC-funded project (EP/L021463/1) will undertake the research urgently required to assess the best way to control and mange such networks. Since telecommunications, controller architecture and control are intimately linked, research to assess and include the impact of these constraints will also be incorporated. Candidate networks will be formulated, analyzed and simulated using state-of-the-art models. These models will be improved to include the effects of distributed control and telecommunications effects/Quality of Service. New techniques will be developed that allow similar benefits to ‘perfect’ (idealized Master) control to be achieved with more realistic distributed hardware systems.
Relevant publications are available online.
Prof Mike Barnes
University of Manchester