An ecosystem perspective for the design of sustainable power systems
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2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license The evolution of power systems has recently seen a strong increase in renewable energy integration. This evolution has resulted in bidirectional pathways with two-way exchanges between the grid and consumers that is beginning to resemble the cyclic organization of food webs. Ecologically-similar cycling of materials and energy in industrial networks has previously been shown to improve network efficiency and reduce costs. The cyclic organization of food webs is proposed here as a design principle to quantify the effectiveness of two-way connections between the grid and consumers. The presence of ecosystem-like cycling in traditional power grid networks is investigated using the ecological metrics cyclicity and cycling index. Two hypothetical 5-bus grids are modified to replicate the two-way exchanges of real power systems with consumer renewable energy generation. The results show a positive correlation between increased structural cycling in grids and reliability improvements measured by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) standard N-1 contingency analysis. These results suggest that the metrics cyclicity and cycling index can play a role in quantifying and improving the sustainability of power grids.