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Validation Project: The Benefits of Digital Twins for the Expansion of Electricity Distribution Grids

The climate targets and the associated dynamic expansion of renewable energies are constantly pushing distribution grids to the limits of their capacity. Data-driven digital processes are replacing conventional approaches to grid planning and operation so that grid loads can be identified at an early stage, grid investments optimized and aligned with current demand. The energy transition is leading to digital change in the distribution grids.

Salzburg Netz is therefore launching an initiative to validate the digital twin.  In a joint project with GridData and Kontron Technologies, the GridData DigitalTwin is creating a digital image of the electricity distribution grid. A sub-grid with high dynamics due to the extensive integration of renewable energies provides the ideal basis for this. The kick-off meeting to define the project objectives, project organization and technical implementation took place on 7 June 2024.

The project team in Salzburg

The Project Team: David Grubinger (SALZBURGNETZ), Engelbert Detter (Kontron Technologies), Sandra Renner (SALZBURGNETZ), Max Eichelseder, Hans-Peter Schwefel (both GridData)

The GridData DigitalTwin is an up-to-date grid image created automatically from measurement and other data and combines actual measurement data from connection points in the distribution grid and the transformer station. Automated processes using domain-specific algorithms create a time-series-based grid model that closely approximates reality. The intelligence of the grid model also allows the physical variables to be derived at grid segment or cable level with a limited amount of measurement data. With “what-if” scenarios in the network model, network operators can make quick decisions for new customer connections, necessary network expansions or topology changes.

The core objective of the project is to compare conventionally used methods for network evaluation with the results of the network model generated within the DigitalTwin.  The focus when comparing the methods with the DigitalTwin is on

  • Increased efficiency in planning
  • Accelerated detection of grid bottlenecks
  • Detection and minimization of voltage band violations
  • Temporal progression of the grid load per grid segment
  • Comparison of connection evaluations with currently used methods
  • Drawing conclusions about the quality of the grid data
three tiered core provides graphical interfaces as well as programming interfaces; automation of data input and model calculation is key

By using the DigitalTwin, it is expected that investments in the grid can be controlled in a more targeted manner and that fewer investments will be required in individual sub-grids, despite decentralized growth in generation and changing consumption patterns.

The use of a digital twin such as the GridData DigitalTwin is intended to make distribution grid operation fit for the future.

This project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action as part of the Renewable Energy Solutions Programme of the German Energy Solutions Initiative.

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