Tata Power pilot project may protect Delhi from grid failure

  • Tata Power-DDL is working on a pilot project that can be scaled up for isolating such important installations and services
  •  In India, only Mumbai and Kolkata have such an ‘islanding’ infrastructure in place

New Delhi: In what may help protect the national capital’s critical and strategic infrastructure from a electricity grid failure, Tata Power Delhi Distribution (Tata Power-DDL) is working on a pilot project that can be scaled up for isolating such important installations and services, said a top company executive.

The European Union funded pilot project in the works by Tata Power-DDL is in collaboration with French utility Enedis, Schneider Electric, data analytics firm Odit-e and Helsinki based VaasaETT for setting up defence mechanisms such as ‘islanding’ by leveraging solar power and battery storage.

Such islands would isolate the fallout of a grid disturbance, restricting it to a particular region and also allow essential service such as water-supplies, telecom infrastructure, hospitals, airports or metro rail network to function.

“There are different levels of islanding. When a grid collapses we want internal generation of Delhi to supply power to a part of Delhi; wherein electricity demand is equivalent to what gets generated by Delhi itself. That right now is not possible because of issues such as availability of technology and systems not been designed for isolating themselves," said Sanjay Banga, chief executive officer of Tata Power-DDL in an interview on Thursday.

A grid collapse is the worst-case scenario for any country or a utility with Indian generation and transmission projects being on the terrorist threat list. In India, only Mumbai and Kolkata have such an ‘islanding’ infrastructure in place.

According to Tata Power-DDL, in such a case microgrids allow for intentional islanding, wherein in case of an outage, a microgrid controller disconnects the local circuit from the grid on a dedicated switch and forces the distributed generator to power the entire local load.

“Going forward, what we are trying to in this project is at a small level of a distribution transformer wherein the demand is 400 kWh catering to around 1000 households. We are trying to create an island there, where the batteries would be there along with solar generation. In case of any eventuality, this will be able to sustain the load of that distribution transformer," Banga said.

This comes in the backdrop of India’s grid collapse in 2012. India’s worst blackout left nearly 620 million people across 19 states and three Union territories without electricity for hours together when the northern grid collapsed on 31 July 2012, and, in a wider blackout, the northern, eastern and north-eastern grids broke down on 1 August 2012.

“It is a technology that we want to prove that if something goes wrong, can we have alternate source of energy to feed it by using a renewable energy source or microgrids…This is a concept that we want to prove that self-healing can be done. Also, to make some critical consumers as pockets of islanding," Banga said and added, “Once this is proven then we will see what is to be done?"

“It has not been tried in India so far. This is an European Union scheme in which they have selected Tata Power-DDL to do it for few distribution transformers," Banga added.

An agreement for the €10.7 million ‘Smart Grid Demonstrator’ will be inked on Friday in New Delhi, with it also being aimed towards maximising local consumption of green energy and effective demand side management. It is expected to start in May 2019 and be completed by October 2022.

With around 25,000 such transformers, Delhi has an average power demand of 4000 MW, with its peak electricity demand touching 6500 MW. In comparison, areas under Tata Power-DDL have an average demand of 1250 MW and a peak demand of 1960 MW.