We’re around half way through our Enhanced Frequency Control Capability (EFCC) project, which was awarded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC) at the end of 2014. As the project team delivers its latest bi-annual report to the regulator, Project Manager Lilian MacLeod explains why new technologies could help balance the UK electricity system.
As System Operator, it’s our responsibility to manage and control system frequency on Britain’s electricity grid.
It’s always a delicate balance between supply and demand. To do this effectively we need to maintain system frequency at 50Hz within very tight parameters.
There are also times when we have to act fast. Even relatively small deviations from this figure could potentially affect network stability and our ability to keeping energy flowing to where it’s needed.
The EFCC project is helping us to explore how established and newer technologies — such as wind farms and solar — could play a larger part in providing rapid frequency response in an increasingly low-carbon world. National Grid works with a variety of partners and stakeholders, like the organisations involved in the EFCC project, to make sure Great Britain continues to benefit from secure, affordable and sustainable energy for the long term, as our energy mix changes.
We produce six-monthly reports for the regulator to show the progress we’re making on the EFCC project. The latest of these was delivered at the start of December, which gives us an ideal opportunity to update Connecting readers on exactly where we are.
The vital backbone
Our main focus has been on developing our Monitoring and Control System (MCS) developed by GE. This is the piece of hardware that allows us to get the most out of renewable technologies by measuring and orchestrating a wide spread of frequency control resources to react in sub-second speed.
The MCS is now fully developed and initial testing has been completed. This was rounded off with a successful Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), a major project milestone where project partners checked that the technology meets the original specifications for the project and is fully functional.
Our project partners have been given comprehensive training in how to use MCS ahead of an important period of field trials. It’s a really exciting moment for us as it means we’re right on the cusp of showing how the system will work in the real world.
We’re also continuing our efforts to demonstrate the ability of windfarms to provide rapid frequency response. We signed a contract with DONG Energy and Siemens in October for trials to be carried out on test turbines and this is now under way. The next step is to agree a second contract with the businesses, where trials will take place on a fully operational, commercial windfarm.
Positive decision on battery storage
The biggest challenge to the project to-date, however, was when our request for funding for a new battery storage unit was declined. This would have allowed for combined solar PV and battery storage trials.
We wanted to keep battery storage in our thinking and decided to seek Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) funding to cover the cost of leasing an existing facility owned by Belectric for the length of our trials. This has been approved and it gives us a great opportunity to show just what battery storage can do when it comes to balancing the network.
We’ve also been working to recruit businesses to participate in demand side response (DSR) services, as we want to see whether this can play an effective role in frequency response. Project partner Flexitricity is leading on this work, and has made excellent progress in attracting and securing customer participation in the trials. National Grid has recently procured 200MW of the new balancing service – Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR). There here are common features between the speed of provision of the EFR service and the objectives of the EFCC project. However, EFCC has several advantages over EFR in terms of speed, stability, predictability and flexibility to incorporate diverse resources.
Sharing the findings
Finally, the project team continued to share everything it’s learned in the last six months. A highlight was the Low Carbon Networks and Innovation (LCNI) Conference in Manchester where we provided insights about the project and demonstrating how the MCS will work.
The next six months will be significant, too. We will see the installation, configuration and Site Acceptance Testing (SAT) of all the new technology, so that field trials can start. This is particularly exciting because it marks an important transition from the innovation stage to genuinely putting our ideas to practical work.
We are planning an industry event in Scotland in March that will showcase the findings of our partners involved in this project – Find out more — and keep up to date with the project — at our dedicated project website.