$70 million system takes over electricity market

Five-year project sees new market system take over grid management

Transpower has commissioned its new system to manage the electricity market and control the secure flow of electricity on the national grid.

The $70 million project has taken five years to complete. The original estimate was four years, but extensive and complex testing required a time-frame extension.

The Market Systems Project, as it is known, runs in real time and includes some world firsts, which systems operations general manager Keiran Devine says are being closely watched by the industry overseas.

He gives as an example the Simultaneous Feasibility Test. There are six lines running into Auckland and if one fails, the load has to be redistributed over the other five, each of which has differing capacity. “We can’t allow them to be overloaded. Presently, it is an offline operation involving a planning engineer, but this will automate it.

“The new systems provide Transpower with new, accurate real-time information,” he says. “This means we can use more accurate assumptions when modelling the power system, which results in greater efficiencies within the grid.

“This additional capacity will allow the grid to better manage outages, which can compromise the security of the power system.”

He says the project is being regarded internationally as an effective and successful implementation. “Market systems projects have been shown to be extremely risky, mainly because of the levels of complexity involved.”

A potential underlying benefit is the ability to better manage lower capacity parts of the grid. This could save millions of dollars in replacement investment, because the better modelling may delay the need for upgrades by up to two years.

The core technology was provided by French giant Areva, which specialises in power systems. Oracle continued its relationship with Transpower by providing the new databases, which run on IBM AIX P Series servers. Transpower is using IBM blades for the application servers, while Fujitsu delivered the underlying infrastructure.

Red Rock, Integration Works and Fujitsu are local support partners. Fronde and Integration Works supplied the middleware, while Power Systems Consultants supplied the specialist personnel to develop auxiliary applications.

Transpower is using Windows for the application servers. A team of 10 people spent more than 1000 working days at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, working with Areva and Microsoft. Transpower also had to upgrade its private network and this was supplied by Alcatel/Lucent.

There are duplicate control rooms in Wellington and Hamilton.

“The next step is automatic generation control,” Devine says.

The first requirement of the project was to guarantee security of supply and then to manage the wholesale market. That is complex because as the bids for power are made, which are collected by M-Co, millions of calculations are done in the background to ensure the level of supply can be met. Prices are set for five-minute periods and trading periods are for 30-minute time slots.

New scheduling software optimises everything to produce the lowest cost in energy.

Transpower had an internal extended core team of around 25 for the project but this was grown as required, by up to 100 people, as well as using contractors.

Devine says they had a structured project management methodology, which is now being used for other projects.

“The scope of the project did not change over five years.

“We had a very strong governance structure and a major testing programme, which we have now made standard.

“The transition to production went incredibly smoothly.

“We got 13 years out of the previous system and we expect to get even more out of this one.”

The project was largely a bespoke development, so the ability to resell bits of it are extremely difficult, Devine says. Rather, Transpower intends to share some modules with Areva so it can tap into the French supplier’s future development at minimal cost.

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