Geographical Perspectives on the Development of Power Distribution Systems in Sparsely Populated Areas

Eero Saarijärvi

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


    It has been proposed that the present power distribution overhead lines should be replaced by underground cables, to address the concerns related to major disturbances caused by snow loads and storms. However, in an objective comparison of different network development strategies, the special characteristics of each of the line types and the terrain must be considered when determining optimal network topologies. In sparsely populated areas the need for cost-effective solutions tailored to best fit the specific terrain and operational environment is emphasized. In this thesis, a method capable of providing a network topology planning algorithm with line type specific characteristics of the operational environment, including an accurate dynamic topographic model involving variable costs, was developed. The work included case studies, the initial data of which was provided by Finnish network utilities from a variety of environments. Applying the developed methodology using a terrain model, also a contribution of this thesis, to the case studies provided general perspectives on the factors affecting the network topologies and the relative merits of different development strategies. The results were compared with the literature, which enabled further assessment of the validity of the methodology and parameterization used in this thesis. The results of the case studies showed that the optimal penetration of sectionalization is greatly affected by the load density. However, the quantity, quality and valuation of the interruptions affect the basic level of the penetration. Then again, optimally placing reserve connections was found to be a much more complex task, being partly affected by not only the geographical distribution of the loads but also by the characteristics of the terrain. While comparing fully backed-up against cost-optimally backed-up network topologies, the potential for utilizing lightweight structures was observed to have a considerable impact. Further, the characteristics of the terrain were found to affect not only cabled networks, but also the topologies of cost-optimal overhead line networks. The developed method for finding the cost-optimal network topology by using an accurate geographic model of the operational environment in terms of life cycle cost surfaces was found to be an efficient means for comparing different circumstances and network topologies and their mutual interactions. A close connection between the network data available in network information systems and the various geographic information sources was also recognized. Further, the means to effectively utilize this connection in the different processes of network planning and operation is presented.
    Translated title of the contributionGeografisia näkökohtia haja-asutusalueiden sähkönjakeluverkkojen kehittämiseen
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Lehtonen, Matti, Supervisor
    • Lehtonen, Matti, Advisor
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-5504-6
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-5505-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


    • cost surface
    • distribution network
    • geographic information
    • life cycle cost
    • medium voltage
    • network topology
    • sparsely populated area
    • topography

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