By 2020, thousands of kilometres of new grids will be operating all over the world to permit even more extensive use of power from renewable sources.
However these new ‘smart grids’ also come with increased complexity, costs and vulnerability. German researchers have developed new software that can be used to analyse and optimise transport grids for electricity, gas and water even at the planning stage, based on numerical simulations. This can lighten the task of retrofitting and expansion for system operators, saves energy and limits cost outlays and enhances safety and security.
Almost every winter, news about reduced gas deliveries from Siberia to Europe makes the headlines. Regardless of the political reasons for a shortage, operating pipelines in severe winters is very challenging – if the gas in the pipes cools too sharply, it partly lique- fies and can no longer flow as swiftly. To maintain the temperature of the gases within a certain range consistently, a complex system of compressors, preheaters, coolers and other elements is needed. Systems operators constantly monitor the condition of their pipelines and plan ahead for reactions to potential temperature and pressure changes.
A new simulation software called the Multi- physical Network Simulation Framework (MYNTS) helps with the operation and planning of such complex networks and was jointly developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scienfific Computing and a team under mathematics professor Caren Tischendorf, of the University of Cologne.
The program models the transport grids as systems of differential-algebraic equations. Thus, through numerical simulations, the grids can be flexibly analysed and better planned. The simulation immediately demon- strates the effects of changes in various factors. Using the MYNTS, for example, one can calculate how temperature fluctuations alter the flow measurements or how the failure of subnetworks influences the other grid components.
The solution can be used for gas, power and water networks or for electrical circuits. Department head Dr Tanja Clees explains that, because each field of application has its unique features, specialised versions of the software are available for various utilities. With the MYNTS, for the simulation of gas transport systems, for example, a user can set up and control his or her own subnetworks or add compressor stations and mixing chambers. In order to accelerate simulation computations, the software runs on computers with multiple processors.
This software is also of interest for smart grids, construction of which will be promoted by the German government over the next few years.
If bulk consumers could be controlled more efficiently and power supply adjusted to match demand at different times, then consumption peaks could be capped and the consumption of electric energy equalised to supply. Such bulk consumers include water companies. One study shows that, in industrialised nations, roughly 3% the total electrical power consumed is used by water companies, mostly for pumping. Intelligent control of the network would have major economic potential: even minor incremental savings make a major contribution that benefits the environment.
Clees and her team have already been able to prove the successful application of the MYNTS in several research projects; now the first commercial projects begin. Negotiations for licensing of the software are currently under way with companies in various industries.