RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGY FEATURE Grid digitalisation: how COVID-19 is accelerating change

With renewable being the energy source most resilient to COVID-19 lockdown measures, Joël Jaton, chief technology officer, depsys, examines four ways to digitalise your grid

parameters to deliver the visibility necessary for effective, informed, day-to-day operational decision making. Additionally, decentralised

sensors strategically placed in the network can also be used to perform control functions and measurement tasks, including managing local networks. This function enables grid operators to sustain voltage quality via an automated approach to counteract adverse network conditions.


ccording to IEA’s Global Energy Review, renewable energy has so far been the

energy source most resilient to COVID-19 lockdown measures, with renewable electricity being largely unaffected while demand for other uses of energy has fallen. As Europe sets its sights on a sustainable

recovery from COVID-19, we are seeing a steady rise in renewable energy on the grid. In fact according to the World Economic Forum, Italy, Germany and Spain set new records for variable renewable energy integration to the grid during the first ten weeks of lockdown. This increase in decentralised generation,

along with the electrification of the heating sector, the integration of power storage and the rise of electromobility, will bring new challenges that low- and medium-voltage network operators will have to deal with sooner or later, and digitalisation will be key to overcoming these challenges. Digitalisation and automation of the

distribution network are often seen as projects for the future, but with COVID-19 forcing the hand of innovation, network operators can immediately improve operational excellence through grid digitalisation today.

REMOTE TROUBLESHOOTING Grid digitalisation helps reduce network downtime by identifying the location and type of fault quicker, shortening the response time. Optimised error identification not only increases network availability and security, but also reduces the need for manual inspections, contributing to the health and protection of field engineers at a time where social distancing remains critical. Network reliability and stability can be

improved with decentralised intelligence and real-time measurement of critical electrical

MONITOR CRITICAL POINTS IN THE NETWORK FIRST Grid measurement devices are ideal for monitoring critical areas in the network. By monitoring two or three points in the network, DSOs can expect response time to be reduced by 50% after a fault is detected, ensuring a reliable service to critical industries including hospitals and manufacturing plants. DSOs can ‘plug and play’ such devices in

just a few minutes by strategically placing them near essential feeders, loads or on local transformers, allowing for maximum visibility and optimal control.

MAKE FUTURE-PROOF DECISIONS BASED ON HISTORICAL DATA The real data transmitted from the sensors to the server is not only available for monitoring but is also assessed locally by the monitoring devices and then saved on the server, ready for analysis. Modular, software-based, solutions make it easier to locate critical points in the network and provide information that can inform investment decisions on network expansion and maintenance. The real data analytics help when it comes to enquiries about network connections or reports, allowing DSOs to give actionable insights and make intelligent data-driven decisions. So, although the energy transition was

already well underway, the COVID19 pandemic has undoubtably accelerated the change. COVID-19 caused both short-term challenges

and reaffirmed that the energy transition is necessary and unstoppable. In the future, if there is ever a second crisis, utilities will be handling it in the context of a more advanced energy transition with even more renewables on the grid. It is vital that DSOs can learn from this

pandemic, take steps to better understand their grid, and digitalise their operations so they can guard against any future crises while playing an active role in enabling the world’s energy transition.


Since 2016, EnBW Solar has operated a 4.4-hectare solar farm in Kenzingen, Germany, on land formerly used by the French Army as a demolition range. Here, around 9,900 photovoltaic modules and powerful Delta-M50A inverters provide 2.62 megawatts of peak power and enough electricity to supply an average of 850 homes. When selecting the inverter, the most important

factors to EnBW solar were product quality and the reliability and financial stability of the manufacturer. Meeting the requirements, Delta’s powerful M50A string inverter offers high-density performance and 98.6% efficiency, ensuring that PV arrays can deliver the maximum yield possible. Electricity has been flowing from this solar farm since the end of August 2016. With

annual yields of 3,000,000 kilowatt-hours or more, it can supply an average of 850 households with electricity, and saves 2,100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. In 2018, the solar farm actually delivered more electricity than expected – the forecast yield of 2,78 million kilowatt-hours was exceeded by 10%, equating to 290,000 kilowatt-hours more solar electricity than planned and 200 fewer tons of CO2

in the atmosphere. Delta




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