Planning Models for Single Wire Earth Return Power Distribution Networks
Abstract: The high cost of grid extension to rural areas, often characterized by scattered communities with low load densities, requires the use of low cost electrification technologies to ensure economic viability. In Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) power distribution networks, the earth itself forms the current return path of the single phase system leading to significant cost savings on conductors, poles and poletop hardware compared to conventional systems. However, challenges exist in SWER with regard to earthing and safety as well as the dependence on earth conductivity to supply consumer loads.This work presents models for the optimal planning of SWER distribution networks. The earth return path is modeled as a conductor based on the Carson line model taking into consideration specific ground properties of the considered location. A load flow algorithm for radial SWER networks is subsequently formulated whereby both overhead line and ground voltages and currents are determined.First, heuristic planning models are developed based on the SWER load flow model. The objective of the heuristic models is to determine the optimum feeder configuration and overhead conductor subject to SWER load flow constraints and load growth over several time periods. Whereas the resulting solutions are good, they may not necessarily be globally optimum.Optimization models are then developed using mixed integer non-linear programming (MINLP) with the aim of obtaining global solutions to the SWER network planning problem. Since the MINLP formulations are limited to the accurate analysis of limited size networks, considerations and approximations for the analysis of larger networks are presented.The developed models are applied to a case study in Uganda to test their practical application. In addition, comparative studies are done to determine how the proposed optimization models compare with previous distribution planning models. The numerical analysis includes the impact of deterministic distributed generation on the SWER planning problem.Results showed consistent performance of the proposed heuristic and optimization models, which also compared well with conventional models. The optimization models gave more cost-effective solutions to the SWER planning problem than the heuristic models. However, the former models had higher computational cost than the latter. The inclusion of distributed generation allowed for cheaper network solutions to be obtained.The models are applicable to the planning of Single Wire Earth Return networks for isolated mini-grids, grid-extension to previously un-electrified rural areas as well as the upgrade of SWER feeders in existing installations.
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