Environment & Engineering

Building Sustainable Energy Systems

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Microgrids offer the potential for increased energy resilience, reliability and security of energy supply for remote communities, less economically developed areas, and sites relying on a consistent power supply. For grid-connected areas, they enable improved resilience to grid outages and network congestion. They also facilitate the electrification of the transportation and heating sectors. They are conducive to a more personal relationship between users and their energy; users can know where their energy is generated, with improved opportunities for simple buying and selling of power – consistent with the recent aspirations for energy self-sufficiency.

Developing microgrids can be challenging – the renewable energy potentials of the site need to be thoroughly assessed and consumers’ power usage habits need to be investigated. Taking these into consideration is critical in planning a microgrid; over-indexing can result in excessive spending while under-resourcing can result in further spending down the line. To identify the true and necessary size of a microgrid, optimisation tools and software packages are commonly used.

SMOULDER (Stochastic Microgrid Optimisation under Uncertain Loads and Distributed Energy Resources) is an optimisation tool developed by Dr Soheil Mohseni under the supervision of Professor Alan Brent at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington which provides the true, optimal size of a microgrid. Using artificial intelligence-based optimisation algorithms, SMOULDER incorporates a practically limitless number of technologies for optimisation. The current industry-leading software calculates the optimal size of only four renewable generation/storage technologies at a time and does not factor in the variability of renewable energy generation and load demand in a systematic manner. Using SMOULDER, we are working towards a more sustainable, low carbon future.

Features and benefits

Closer-to-true optimisation

Early simulations show that SMOULDER can provide a ~20% closer-to-true optimisation than competing software, resulting in $100,000s of saving in community-scale size projects.

Reaches remote communities

This innovation will enable remote communities to have better access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy, with the optimal use of limited resources.

Prosumer technology

Assists in the transition of consumers to ‘prosumers’ where they will be both producing and consuming power and selling the excess to the grid or to neighbours.

Next steps

The optimisation tool is currently available for use in-house and can be run for nearly all configurations of grid-connected and -isolated microgrids. The team are also working on a commercially available version of the tool and making it a software package.

To further validate the utility of the optimisation too, the team are looking to connect with communities or projects developing microgrids.

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Ela Romanowska

Senior Commercialisation Manager

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