FEIT Research Project Database

Smart Grids: Data-driven approaches for the operation and planning of DER-rich distribution networks

Project Leader: Nando Ochoa
Sponsors: Local electric distribution companies
Primary Contact: Nando Ochoa (luis.ochoa@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: Battery Storage; Distribution Networks; Electric Vehicles; Photovoltaic Systems; Smart Grids
Disciplines: Electrical & Electronic Engineering

Residential distributed energy resources (DER) such as solar PV systems, batteries, and electric vehicles are installed behind the meter of mainly single-phase customers connected to three-phase low voltage (LV) feeders (eg, 400V line-to-line). This means that for distribution companies to adequately quantify the impacts from reverse power flows due to excess solar PV generation or much higher demand due to electric vehicles, the corresponding electrical models are required. These models are critical when calculating voltages given the non-linear and unbalance nature of LV feeders. However, the task of producing electrical models of thousands of LV feeders is already a significant challenge for distribution companies around the world, which, in turn, makes the operation and planning of PV-rich LV networks even more challenging. It is in this context that the exploitation of historical smart meter data can not only help distribution companies with their modelling tasks but also provide radical alternatives to how they operate and plan future DER-rich LV networks.

Australia, home of kangaroos, koalas and more than 10,000 beaches, also has the largest residential PV penetration in the world: more than 1 in 5 houses have PV systems. The adoption of residential batteries is also growing at a pace not seen in other countries. The bi-directionality of power flows and the new behaviour of demand is bringing significant challenges to distribution companies who still need to operate and plan the poles and wires. But there are also many opportunities to be untapped if we find practical and clever ways of orchestrating these DER.

The challenges of adapting the operation and planning of the distribution network to new and variable levels of demand and generation require forward thinking and technical innovation, and we are at the forefront of research and development in this sector. From the highly granular and detailed modelling of medium and low voltage networks and DER technologies, to the stochastic quantification of whole-network impacts due to high DER penetrations, to the explotation and, more importantly, the identification of the most cost-effective integration solutions for both network operators and end users, we are positioned as one of the strongest groups worldwide. Working directly with electric distribution companies, we provide academic expertise and facilities to test and develop solutions to bring electricity distribution networks into the low-carbon future.

The PhD project will involve regional companies (data, know-how, and internships) and will investigate, from operational and planning perspectives, practical and futuristic data-driven approaches to manage distribution networks with high penetrations of DER.

What are we looking for?

Enthusiastic applicants (any nationality) that want to make a positive impact in the world and are able to work in a collaborative environment. You should have an excellent academic track record in Electrical Engineering (or similar) as well as excellent communication and inter-personal skills. Being familiar with distribution networks, programming languages, as well as distribution analysis and optimisation/AI software packages is a bonus. However, we will also provide the corresponding training.

What are we offering?

Fully funded, enhanced studentships for 3.5 years. This covers full international tuition fees, stipend of AUD ~32,000 a year (tax free), a performance-based top up of up to AUD 5,000 a year (tax free), and international relocation assistance of AUD 3,000 to move to one of the most livable cities in the world.

You will be part of one of the world’s top research teams in Smart Distribution Networks. We are a family of like-minded engineers with diverse backgrounds who strive to produce world-class research. We have a very collaborative approach to our research and we also value the social component of our activities.

You can learn more about our team, projects and publications visiting this website: https://sites.google.com/view/luisfochoa/

Interested in this exciting opportunity?

Submit an Expression of Interest including your transcripts and CV:

Submit a PhD Expression of Interest

Further information: https://sites.google.com/view/luisfochoa/

Smart Grid Lab