Presentation by Engineering Lecturer Focuses on Smart Grid Research
Dr Inno Davidson of the School of Engineering at UKZN gave a keynote address at the eThekwini Smart Grid Symposium titled: “Smart Grid Innovation for Smart Cities”.
The presentation was very well-received by industry representatives and municipal professionals in attendance.
Davidson’s presentation was based on the work he conducts into the use of smart grids which are electrical grids that merge bi-directional power flow with information flow to monitor changes in usage and supply electricity accordingly. The grids use digital communications technology to detect and react to the usage of the electrical supply they are connected to, and can be integrated into the current electric power system.
This provides scope for research into the use of smart grids, which Davidson says will revolutionise electricity supply and usage in South Africa, in addition to providing innovative new infrastructure, such as charging stations for electric cars. This kind of innovation is becoming increasingly important as demand on electricity supply increases while resources decrease.
‘The last century has demonstrated that every facet of human development is woven around a sound and stable energy supply regime,’ said Davidson in his presentation.
He says smart grids will make it easier to increase capacity, improve efficiency, and ensure that electrical supply is reliable. Additionally, smart grids would contribute to making electrical supply systems function more economically as they respond to demand, and would also ensure the sustainability of the generation and distribution of electrical power. Consumers would also be able to play a more active role in managing their consumption of electricity with the use of smart grids.
In his presentation, Davidson also noted that smart grids could mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases through the use of renewable technologies. The grids are also “self-healing” and can repair faults and reduce outages, since they can detect fluctuations and disturbances to the grid and isolate parts of it. Davidson also touched on global trends in energy supply and consumption, and emphasised the driving forces towards finding more sustainable solutions.
He went on to speak about the importance of collaboration between industry and academia in achieving sustainable solutions, specifically by the training of graduates being done through the Eskom Centre of Excellence (CoE) in HVDC Engineering, a joint effort between industry (eThekwini, Eskom and Transnet), and academia (UKZN, Durban University of Technology and Mangosuthu University of Technology).
Davidson is the Director of this multi-disciplinary research centre, which focuses on research in technology relating to HVDC, power systems (including lines) and power electronics relating to AC systems. Through applied scientific research and technology development, the centre contributes to expertise in this field in South Africa and encourages a collaborative approach to resolving problems facing the electric power industry.