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The Network Analyser: how to calculate where the electric power flows in transmission lines

The Network Analyser used to design the electricity system in Victoria.  The analyser was used in the 1950s and early 1960s. At that time the demand for electricity in Victorian was rapidly increasing to provide power for the many new factories and for the new homes being built in the suburbs of Melbourne and in country towns.  At that time Victoria had only small power stations at Yallourn and Newport with very small power stations in country areas such as Geelong and Ballarat.  New low cost power stations were required to enable rapid development of Victoria.

Large new power stations were planned including Yallourn, Morwell and Hazelwood on the Latrobe valley brown coal fields, Newport power station in Melbourne and the hydro power stations on the Kiewa River. In addition connections were being planned to the new Snowy Mountains Scheme.  These developments of generation required a transmission system to bring the power to people and factories in Melbourne and country towns. 

The design of the transmission system needed very complex calculations to determine how many lines would be required, the most appropriate voltage and how power each line would have to carry. In addition it was necessary to design the controls to ensure that the electricity customers received the correct voltage both when the system was operating normally and following a severe disturbance such a lightning stroke hitting a line and causing a short circuit.

The calculations were far too complex to be carried out by hand so the State Electricity Commission of Victoria purchased the Network Analyser. The Analyser is really a model of the power system.  It contains models of the lines, switches, generators and loads. It also has models of the voltage controls. The models could be easily changed using the various dials and switches. Thus for example a line model could be used for a long line from the Latrobe valley power stations to Melbourne or for a short line from central Melbourne to a suburb like Spotswood.

Much of the transmission system still used to supply Victoria was designed using the Network Analyser. This Network Analyser made a major contribution to the development of Victoria.

In the mid 1960s, large new electric power developments were being planned for Victoria including development of additional large power stations in the Latrobe Valley and further development of the Snowy Mountains scheme. In addition interconnection of the Victorian and NSW power systems was being developed.  The calculations of this expanded system were increasingly complex and the analysis was transferred from the Network Analyser to one of the first commercial digital computers. Nowadays, the interconnected system extends from northern Queensland to South Australia.  Powerful desktop computers are used to carry out the analysis calculations for this extensive system.

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