The OpenLV project made electricity network data ‘open access’ for the first time ever. This presented a great opportunity for smart thinking and innovation. We invited people, ranging from community groups to industry stakeholders, to come up with novel ideas for apps that can make use of this data. The apps could ultimately provide benefits to:
The list below contains some of the ideas from the OpenLV team at the start of the project. During the trial the team were pleased to see many of the ideas become reality.
Community groups could use data from their local LV substation(s) in multiple ways. Some ideas for community groups apps are listed below.
This app could provide communities with their overall electricity consumption. This would enable communities to develop plans for their local community energy scheme using the base data.
This app could provide communities with their overall electricity consumption and could enable them to negotiate a better rate with electricity supplier(s).
This app could enable communities to run campaigns to positively benefit the local distribution network, i.e. the reduction of electricity demand at specific times of the day. Providing access to this data enables the effectiveness of campaign(s) to be assessed.
This app could enable communities to automatically get the best return on investment from community-owned generation assets. Knowing the demand of the local network enables automated routines to export the electricity to the network; or utilise it locally when it is most cost effective to do so.
Low carbon technologies (electric vehicles, heat pumps and solar PV) are expected to have a significant impact on the LV electricity network. At the current time, DNOs do not necessarily know how many of these technologies are installed. However, we do know that these technologies will not be evenly distributed across the electricity network. Where they form in ‘clusters’ this has the potential to impact the LV network.
Providing research organisations with access to the LV network data will enable them to ‘mine the data’ and, for example, estimate the number of low carbon technologies that are installed. This information would be of interest to the DNO to allow them to make cost effective investment decisions about the local electricity network. With accurate data and predictions, a DNO could decide whether to deploy smart solutions rather than infrastructure upgrades, which will save customers money.
Apps could provide DNOs with data on LV network assets that is not currently accessible. For example, the provision of real time temperature data for network assets could enable DNOs to run assets harder for short time periods, as and when required. This reduces the investment spent on network assets therefore saving customers money.
The uptake of electric vehicles is set to increase rapidly. The existing LV network was not built to support the electricity demand required to support large numbers of electric vehicles. Where these vehicles appear in ‘clusters’ in local neighbourhoods, network assets may be required to be upgraded or replaced. This is a costly process that is ultimately funded by customers. Apps could be developed to help manage EV charging, therefore helping DNOs to avoid costly infrastructure upgrades and save customers money.
This app is more likely to be of interest to an equipment supplier or DNO. The LV-CAP™ platform, in the configuration being deployed within the OpenLV project, monitors the voltage of the connected feeders and transformers, making these readings available to all other applications on the platform. These readings can therefore be utilised to achieve multiple, different outcomes depending on the application, some examples of which are below.
In a simple example of an automated voltage management application, these readings could be utilised to determine optimum settings for the network’s tap-changers, ensuring the LV network voltage remains within statutory limits.
Utilising voltage management can also be a means to support management of load on the network. Reducing the voltage on the circuit reduces the energy used by resistive loads, such as a kettle, or the heating element within ovens and washing machines; similarly, increasing the voltage increases the load drawn by such devices.
In situations where the network is under strain, either determined from direct measures, or other applications such as a real-time-thermal-rating prediction, decreasing the voltage would reduce the load and hence the stress on the network. In contrast, raising the voltage would increase the load and energy utilised within the network.
This application could be linked with the ‘Community Generation app’ referred to above and provide an additional ‘tool’ for communities to maximise their return on investment.
G83 voltage control equipment on domestic PV panels automatically disconnects PV generation from the network when voltage limits are exceeded but does not re-connect installations automatically when the voltage levels return to permitted levels. An application on an LV-CAP™ platform could be utilised to provide a ‘trigger’ signal once statutory voltage levels were re-established, enabling re-activation of the generation plant.
This would require a communications link to the PV system, something that would fall under the control of the equipment supplier and not the DNO / DSO or LV-CAP™ platform provider.
This idea may be of interest to owners of standby generation or energy storage assets. The ‘community generation app’ could enable communities to automatically get the best return on investment from community-owned generation assets. Knowing what the demand is on the local network provides the data required for automated routines to:
Using LV network data, apps could be developed to send alerts regarding loss in supply to customers, for example, the duration of the power outage. This may be of interest to communities with their own news feeds or to individual members of a community. In addition, this information could be valuable for carers looking after vulnerable members of society. Alerts could be sent to members of a community or carers if supply is lost for a sustained period, asking them to check on vulnerable neighbours.
Note: Alerts to be sent during a sustained duration power-loss would require the use of linked cloud processing or similar as the LV-CAP™ platform would not be able to issue alerts during a power outage.
It is worth reiterating that the concept of the LV-CAP™ platform makes all raw, monitored data available to all applications installed on the device. The exceptions to this are likely to be where an equipment manufacturer makes use of data gathered by an additional, proprietary sensor (e.g. specialised power harmonics) and their application captures and stores the information gathered for their own use but does not make it available elsewhere within the system.
The LV-CAP™ platform is intended to allow the end user of the system to deploy multiple applications that utilise the same data for different purposes whilst providing a method for companies with specialist IP to maintain control of it.
As an example, a real-time-thermal-rating application could forecast an exceedance in network capacity in the future, but the management of load on the network could be achieved through the control of voltage to reduce load, through initiating network meshing, through utilisation of battery storage, or a combination of all of these.
Different networks may require one but not the other and it would be at the discretion of the site owner which applications were deployed, and in what order of priority to schedule the actions they initiate; this avoids the need for application developers to create complex applications that make allowances for every contingency.