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New developments such as electromobility or the increasing share of renewable energy sources pose new challenges for our grids. Distribution networks at the low-voltage level - i.e. the numerous networks that transport electricity between local network transformers and households - are particularly affected by this. As coordinator of the ERA-Net Smart Grids Plus project "LarGo! - Large-Scale Smart Grid Application Roll-Out", the AIT is working with Siemens, the Vienna networks and other partners from Germany and Sweden to develop new approaches to make these networks fit for the energy future.

Digitization of the distribution networks

"Traditional distribution networks mainly contain electrical and electromechanical components designed for continuous operation," says Mario Faschang from the AIT Center for Energy, explaining the background to the project. "Nowadays, however, distribution grids have to be much more flexible and have to cope with high outputs for electromobility as well as with strongly fluctuating feed-in, for example from PV systems". The key to this flexibility is digitization. In the future, information and communication technologies (ICT) will take over more and more central tasks such as voltage regulation or grid monitoring. The big challenge is to install and configure the software applications required for this in an automated and large-scale manner, and to update them as a result - in parallel with grid operation, which runs via the same digital communication channels. This cannot be done manually, because after all, there are about 10,000 distribution networks and thus transformer stations in Vienna, which must be continuously kept up-to-date with the latest software technology in the future. Faschang illustrates the goal of "LarGo!" with an example: "In the future, the network operator should be able to select transformer stations directly on the computer in the control room where he wants to set up a specific application, for example to analyze network behavior or to regulate voltage. This software can then be installed on all selected transformer stations at the push of a button without affecting ongoing operations". One of the intelligent components that could be controlled by modern smart grid applications is the smart grid converter developed by AIT. This is an inverter developed by AIT that can differentiate between two grid modes and react according to the grid situation. In order to take account of the cybersecurity aspect, the applications are to be additionally certified and provided with a digital stamp.
Simulation and field tests

The effects of such large-scale rollout and update processes cannot be tested in a real network for security reasons. For this reason, comprehensive simulations in which the ICT infrastructure is coupled with virtual distribution networks are planned for the next three years in parallel to the process and application development. The AIT has a unique laboratory in Europe, SmartEST, in which a large number of distribution networks can be simulated simultaneously with the real distribution network infrastructure. "By coupling with a specially developed transformer station, the S4 - Smart & Secure Secondary Substation, we can run through various scenarios to see how the installed hardware and software components react," explains Faschang. In addition, software applications from previous projects are also being further developed, tested in the rollout and their mutual influence examined. The lakeside town of Aspern, where selected applications are to be automated and rolled out over a large area in a field test, plays a major role in this process.

Project partners

Coordinator: AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH

Vienna Networks GmbH

Siemens AG

Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Fraunhofer Gesellschaft - Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Germany

OFFIS - Institute for Computer Science, Germany


Dieses Projekt wurde im Rahmen des zweiten Joint Call for Proposals des ERA-Net Smart Grids Plus Programms gefördert, mit Unterstützung des EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020.