The System Operator will be showing an array of progressive projects at December’s LCNI Conference in Telford. Anyone with a stake in the future of our power networks should be there. Innovation Strategy Manager Joshua Visser explains.
As System Operator (SO), we’re at the heart of Britain’s energy system. We have a critical role to play in tackling some of the nation’s most pressing energy challenges, and innovation helps us do that.
Our industry is changing at a phenomenal pace. We see ever-higher levels of renewable energy on the system and new technologies bursting on to the scene. There’s a pressing need to reduce our environmental footprint and an urgency to respond to changing consumer demands.
These fundamental shifts are creating more opportunities than ever to innovate for our customers. Through our wide-ranging series of Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and Network Innovation Competition (NIC) projects we’re working hard to push our business forward, so we continue to provide secure supplies of power that are sustainable and affordable.
On 6-7 December we’ll be sharing our dedication to innovation at the Low Carbon Networks and Innovation (LCNI) Conference 2017. The event at Telford’s International Centre is a brilliant platform for sharing all the knowledge and learning we’ve developed this year.
We’ll be showcasing the breadth of our innovation there, immersing visitors in the work we’re doing by transforming complex projects into simplified, engaging exhibits and presentations.
The conference welcomes exhibitors and delegates from across electricity and gas, from the UK and abroad. So it’s a good opportunity to get under the skin of the latest innovations across the networks, and make new connections that could lead to future innovation projects.
Here’s a breakdown of the work we’ll be sharing with visitors to LCNI:
The Enhanced Frequency Control Capability (EFCC) Project
Project overview: EFCC is a three-year, £8.5m project that aims to test how established and newer technologies – such as wind farms and solar – can help keep the transmission system balanced in the most cost-effective and efficient way. This year, the project developed a monitoring and control system (MCS) that will enable newer, more sustainable energy technologies to provide frequency response. It does this by collecting frequency data regionally, and then calculating the required rate and volume of the fast frequency response needed to bring the transmission system back in balance after an event. The MCS co-ordinates the best response from all available technologies. The MCS is being fully trialled by project partners to see how it performs.
Benefits of this innovation: EFCC will help us create a more flexible network, where a new generation of energy sources can compete on a level playing field to provide us with fast frequency response.
What to expect at LCNI 2017: An interactive demonstration will show how new sources of energy can impact frequency control, and how the MCS can help restore balance. A second demonstration will explain to visitors how the MCS is being tested, and show a range of scenarios for frequency events and faults.
Project overview: Power Potential is a world-first innovation project, with National Grid working in partnership with UK Power Networks. Through this project we aim to understand how large amounts of distributed energy – mostly renewable – can be absorbed onto the energy network while both maintaining network stability and supporting decarbonisation goals. We aim to deliver cheaper, faster connections for renewable energy providers to help get more low-carbon energy onto the network. Power Potential’s findings will form a crucial part of the foundation for the move from Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to Distribution System Operator (DSO) by enhancing cooperation across the transmission-distribution interface. The project is a key step in the transition to ‘whole system’ thinking that will increase the efficiency of network operations and planning across the networks.
Benefits of this innovation: By getting the transmission and distribution networks to work in harmony in a whole system approach, we’ll be better able to manage constraints on the system and save money for consumers. It will also create new opportunities for renewable energy generators to make money.
What to expect at LCNI 2017: Visitors can play an interactive game that challenges them to decide whether we need to absorb or inject more power to fix the problems given to them – issues that we encounter every day on the network.
Transmission Network Topology Optimisation
Project overview: Much like a busy road network, the electricity system can suffer from congestion at peak times, meaning that power can’t always be transmitted to where it’s needed. The resulting constraint costs are passed on to consumers. Learning from US experience, this project has been exploring the use of algorithms to fine-tune the network. It aims to reroute power flows away from heavily congested circuits to the rest of the system, where there is spare capacity.
Benefits of this innovation: In the US, thermal capacity across critical network boundaries was improved by 5-10% by applying algorithms to parts of the transmission network. If similar improvements were made on the UK transmission network substantial constraint savings could be achieved. Looking at just one constraint, the saving could be between £1m and £5m a year.
Embedded generation forecasting
Project overview: Embedded generation is any form of generated power that’s connected to the distribution network rather than the transmission network. It has many types and sizes, including combined heat and power (CHP) plants, wind farms, solar PV and hydro-electric power. As the amount of generated power from these sources increases on the network, our job of balancing the system becomes more challenging. So we’re running a number of projects that will allow us to get better data from these sources and forecast their generation patterns more accurately.
Benefits of this innovation: By improving how we collect data and forecast embedded generation we’ll be better able to predict how much generation we need on the network. Holding too much in reserve costs consumers money, so better forecasting adds up to better value for them.
We’ll be using virtual reality (VR) technology to help visitors understand the issues raised by the optimisation and forecasting projects. It’s set up as an interactive game to let you try your hand at dealing with the daily challenges faced by our control room. Visitors can adjust the system to balance supply and demand in real time, maintain system frequency and inject reactive power to keep the system running smoothly.
The aim of the game is to improve visitors’ understanding of the issues we face as the SO, and how we’re trying to solve them through innovation. Interacting with these concepts brings them to life, just like National Grid brings energy to life.
Beyond our stand
Alongside the activities and experts on our stand, we’ll also be presenting conference papers on EFCC and Power Potential in collaboration with some of our project partners. These sessions will be a rare opportunity to get to the bottom of what we’re doing in innovation, what we’re learning along the way and why it’s so important for the future of energy in the UK.
Elsewhere at LCNI you’ll be able to see the innovation progress of all network licensees, and connect with everyone from manufacturers to suppliers, academics to business owners. It will be a goldmine of inspirational learning. I hope to see you there.
You can book your tickets to LCNI 2017 here.