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Do networks really have a solution for managing high grid voltage?

At Edge Electrons, we’ve talked a lot over the last few months about the negative impact high grid voltage is having on solar customers and all electricity users across Australia.

To recap, our electricity grid is struggling to cope with the growing penetration of residential solar. To help manage this problem, electricity network companies are delivering power to our homes at voltage levels which increase our electricity bills, damage our appliances and can even cut off our solar systems.

The Guardian Newspaper reported last night that “voltages on our electricity networks are being run at levels far above where they should be, which is 230 volts.”

In fact, the article goes on to say that a sample of 2,000 homes across SA, VIC, NSW and QLD are all receiving up to 245 volts from the electricity grid.

So why aren’t our network companies fixing this problem? The article suggests that “if the networks simply adjusted the voltage settings of their transformers to the standard they are supposed to be adhering to, then we should be able to absorb substantially greater amounts of solar capacity in the network.”

Unfortunately, the networks can’t just “adjust the voltage settings of the transformers” and solve the problem for everyone. The Australian electricity grid is the largest in the world. It is not technically or operationally possible to adjust the settings at each of the hundreds of thousands of transformers on the grid. Some of these transformers are decades old. Others require each transformer to be turned off manually to change the voltage settings. That’s very expensive and obviously not going to work for customers.

Adjusting the voltage tap settings at the sub-station level can be done periodically, but not dynamically. In any event, the distances between sub-station and customer are so great, and the variability of load and solar generation on the intervening network so large, that this is no more than a strategy of hope.

Changing the tap settings is expensive, inaccurate and degrades the equipment. Instead, the least cost solution to ensure stable voltage for customers is a flexible voltage regulation device at the point of load.

At Edge Electrons, we will be watching closely to see if networks and governments alike investigate point of load voltage regulation technologies which can help manage the high voltage problem. But considering the current state of the industry, we aren't holding our breath!

In the meantime, customers can protect themselves with low-cost solutions, like EdgeIQ, today. Click here to find out more.


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