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Associate Professor Alan Wood who is leading the Gathering Renewable Energy in Electricity Networks research project/ Credit: University of Canterbury

Associate Professor Alan Wood who is leading the Gathering Renewable Energy in Electricity Networks research project/ Credit: University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury recognised for project on integrating renewable energy into electricity grids

A team of researchers led by the University of Canterbury’s Electric Power Engineering Centre (UC EPECentre) has received MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment)’s Gold Status for the second year running for the GREEN Grid (Gathering Renewable Energy in Electricity Networks) research project.

The team includes researchers and postgraduate students from UC EPECentre, UC Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE).

The project is led by Associate Professor Alan Wood (previously led by Dr Allan Miller). It focuses on modelling future trends in renewable electricity generation and household demand to ensure all New Zealanders have access to reliable, safe and affordable renewable energy.

The research programme was established in 2012 with the aim of future-proofing New Zealand’s electricity supply in view of increasing renewable energy distributed generation and new technologies like electric vehicles and smart appliances.

The programme is working with a wide range of end users across the industry and in Government to ensure that changes to the network and new management practices are applied consistently.

The intended end-result is an efficient, cost-effective and robust electricity network meeting New Zealand’s changing power supply and demand needs.

The programme envisages a Smart Grid envisaged where where power flows are managed responsively and according to the needs of the users. The grid will be able to temporally and spatially balance different types of supply and demand. Management of demand, and not just supply, will be part of the balancing solution. In particular, household demand including electric vehicle charging will be a new tool, encouraging uptake of electric vehicles.

UC researchers worked alongside industry to develop a guide for a nationwide approach connecting solar power and other distributed energy systems to the national grid.

Electricity Engineers’ Association (EEA) Chief Executive Peter Berry praised the research as a real combined academia–industry project. Ten distribution companies, including Orion, Unison, Powerco and WEL Networks, have been involved in developing this guide as well as the regulator – the Electricity Authority – and Transpower, the national grid owner and operator.

The programme has also helped educate the public with the energywiseTM solar calculator which was developed in partnership with the UC EPECentre and released by EECA (Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority). The solar calculator incorporates solar data sourced from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) through its SolarView service.

The calculator is designed to assess the value of a solar electricity system for a household. Based on details about the house, energy usage, and how the person intends to pay for a solar electricity system. The tool then estimates the value of installing a solar electricity system at the house, including the estimated total earnings (if any) over the course of 25 years, and the estimated number of years that it would take for you to earn back your initial investment.

The research team also delivered a detailed model of New Zealand’s wind generation resource including variability and is about to release a reserves requirements model with a set of recommendations for a new set of ancillary services. This work has been done in conjunction with the New Zealand system operator, Transpower.

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