Western Power Distribution has launched a new trial to examine the impact of low-carbon technologies on its network.

The company will use artificial intelligence (AI) and data provided by Electralink to identify areas with high concentrations of electric vehicles, solar panels and heat pumps.

This will allow planners to accurately assess network capacity and decide where and when reinforcements will be needed. The data will be crunched using IBM’s artificial intelligence platform Watson Studio.

Roger Hey, future networks manager at Western Power Distribution, said the Low Carbon Technologies Detection project will be a “gamechanger” for distribution network operators.

“Through analysis of historic data and identification of future trends, the project will deliver a virtual monitoring capability that will allow network planners to forecast the locations of hotspots of electric vehicles, solar panels and heat pumps,” he explained.

Gill Nowell, distribution system operator lead at Electralink, told Utility Week: “We know that distribution network operators have really quite poor visibility of where all the low-carbon technologies are connected to their low-voltage networks.”

She continued: “We’re working very closely with IBM to use machine learning and AI to detect previously unknown low-carbon technologies connections.

“Ultimately, the project will develop a proof of concept model – a virtual monitoring capability – to help the network planners identify and forecast locations of the proliferation of EVs or solar panels.”

Nowell said it will also help them to identify locations where virtual monitoring alone will not suffice and monitoring hardware will be necessary.

The trial is being supported by funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance.

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