Boosting power capacity through innovation

27th September 2017
Alice Matthews

Distribution network operator, UK Power Networks, has announced a trial that will save connections customers millions of pounds, and free up about 95MW of additional capacity for renewable energy to feed into local electricity networks. Load Share is an innovation project that is testing an alternative to costly and time-consuming reinforcement to help the network serve the continued expansion of low carbon energy in east Essex.

The additional capacity will be enough to power more than 45,000 homes without the need to build any additional cables and substations. The project uses a new Power Guardian device will save customers up to £8m and avoid the significant roadworks required if power lines had to be upgraded using traditional means.

The device will be trialled on a circuit near Colchester that has three overhead lines running between two substations. Because one line is shorter than the other two, it currently channels more ‘load’ while the other two lines have ample spare capacity. This project will enable the power flowing across the three to be balanced.

UK Power Networks is trialling a combination of Power Guardian devices to ensure the load can be shared more equally between the three lines, freeing up approximately 95MW of extra capacity and allowing more renewable energy to be connected faster at lower cost.

Power Guardian devices have been successfully demonstrated on electricity networks in the US and France, but this is the first time they will be trialled in Great Britain. They work by inhibiting the line carrying the most electricity, and route power to the cables with more capacity.

Once it is proven on the 132,000V network, it is hoped the device can be used on lower voltage networks as well as being a cost-effective alternative to traditional reinforcement on the network. The £2.4m project will last for 20 months.

Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “This is a project that will deliver all of the benefits of traditional reinforcement without the cost and disruption to customers, and disruption to landowners and road users. The connection of ‘distributed generation’ is vital as we move towards a low carbon economy. This project will trial innovative solutions to ensure we make the best use of our infrastructure. It will mean we can connect more renewable energy to our network faster and at lower cost.

“We run innovation projects that have the potential to directly benefit our customers, by getting more energy onto the distribution network more quickly and at lower cost. That’s exactly what Load Share does and we are looking forward to sharing our learnings with the rest of the network operators in the UK.”

Nuno da Fonseca, Infrastructure Planning Manager at UK Power Networks, added: “We identified a business need which required this circuit to be reinforced and then worked with our colleagues in Innovation to see if there was a more cost-effective way of doing it. A successful trial gives us another solution in our toolbox so that we can keep our customers lights on at the lowest possible cost.”

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