The resilience of distribution networks makes it possible to offer a reliable, stable energy supply to the population even during extreme events such as storms, earthquakes and fires. Although they may seem to be remote dangers, the reality is that with climate change the risk of these natural disasters occurring has increased enormously.
According to data from the State Meteorological Agency, data for the maximum rainfall in 2022 in areas such as Valencia, Alicante and Elche and Gran Canaria were the highest since records began. Given this situation, only resilient energy networks can maintain the energy supply and meet electricity demand in Spain.
Planning and prevention for resilient networks
We are currently experiencing a real transformation of the electricity distribution networks to face new challenges. This process is based on two pillars: Planning and prevention.
The aim of planning is essentially to develop more flexible networks that can be adapted to the changing and diverse needs of users and electricity production itself. With the increase in the installation of solar panels by individuals, energy production is changing and only through a transformation can saturations be anticipated and problems in the quality of supply avoided.
Meanwhile, the prevention of network failures focusses on strengthening distribution channels so that they are not damaged by external events such as natural accidents and weather problems.
All these efforts are aimed at creating electricity networks that meet the needs of today's society, even in the most extreme conditions.
Resisting weather events and other damage
In this context, we have projects like Resisto, a pioneering initiative in Europe to reduce the impact of meteorological phenomena on the electricity grid. This work is led by our Networks subsidiary, e-distribución, and is being undertaken in the Doñana National Park and Nature Reserve to strengthen the electricity grid against different climatic events and atmospheric phenomena to make it much more resistant and thus improve the quality of service.
As explained by Jacob Rodríguez Rivero, Head of Financed Projects for e-distribución, in Resisto "we are working to improve the resilience of the network, with the aim of minimising the impact of extreme weather events and other related risks, taking advantage of and making maxim use of intelligence and flexibility in distribution networks".
This project is especially significant because it focusses not only on possible adverse events of climatic origin, such as those produced by water, fire or wind, but also contemplates physical damage caused by human, animal or even terrorist attacks. It is also a pioneering initiative because it is introducing innovations in all aspects of resilience:
- Planning: Using a number of procedures, from climate prediction tools to aerial robots to generate data and images, it seeks to predict and prevent problems by detecting areas where there may be a high risk in certain climatic conditions or as a result of physical actions, such as by animals or humans.
- Detection and response: As soon as a disruption in the electricity grid is detected, drones are sent to find out exactly what is happening and, with advanced methods using 3D systems, possible response and mitigation actions are then assessed. This guarantees agile, swift action.
- Recovery and mitigation: In this phase, the Dynamic Thermal Line Rating (DTL) is mainly used, automatically isolating the fault and optimising power flows to ensure the supply.
- Adaptation: All these events give us knowledge that helps improve resilience, enabling the network to progress towards an increasingly secure system. All the information that has been gathered during the process, from the data and images taken by drones to the reconnaissance of the most vulnerable areas, is used in machine learning methods to further strengthen the power grid.
Resisto enjoys the participation of IREC, Institut de Recerca en Energia de Catalunya, AICIA, a research organisation linked to the University of Seville, ATISoluciones and the University of Granada.