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Innovative technology releases extra capacity in electricity substations

A ‘power sharing’ trial has successfully piloted new ways to maximise output from existing electricity substations to continue delivering supplies for the lowest cost.

From Press releases - 7 September 2016 12:00 AM

A ‘power sharing’ trial has successfully piloted new ways to maximise output from existing electricity substations to continue delivering supplies for the lowest cost.

As part of UK Power Networks’ commitment to deliver better and cheaper services for customers, the company has explored ways to spread an area’s demand for electricity among clusters of substations in cities - rather than just the nearest substation.

The results of the £8million Flexible Urban Networks at Low Voltage (FUN-LV) project will help engineers make the best use of existing equipment in their work to keep the lights on across London, the East and South East.

During the project, lightly-loaded substations in Brighton and London were programmed to share the ‘workload’ of more heavily-loaded sites. The electronic system kicked in whenever pre-set thresholds were met, automatically transferring power from one site to another.

Results from the trial reveal that power transfers of up to 370kW are possible within two minutes. This is the equivalent of moving nearly half (45%) the load from one substation to another. This amount of power compares to 230 households, or 34 (elite) electric cars charging at the same time.

Instead of adding new equipment to an electricity substation to cater for a customer who needs more power (which could take several months and incur significant cost), electricity companies could use this power sharing technique to help meet requests for more power, quicker. It could also reduce the need for building new substations and avoid roadworks.

The trial equipment was commissioned in 36 sites including Church Street, Robert Street, Boyces Street and Cannon Place areas in Brighton; and the London boroughs of Westminster, Merton, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth. The sites began operating up to a year ago and relevant data has been collected throughout the trial.

The trial compared three different types of systems including power electronics, which autonomously link separate substations and efficiently share the load across the network. The equipment was installed at local substations which receive electricity at up to 11,000-volts then reduce it to low voltage so it can be safely distributed to local homes and businesses.

Peter Lang, senior technology transfer engineer at UK Power Networks, said: “This type of equipment is ahead of its time and could play an important role in the future by sharing network capacity.

“We have lots of substations which are only lightly loaded whilst at the same time neighbouring substations are more heavily loaded because of the way the area has developed over the years. If there are complementary demand profiles, these new technologies allow us to connect the substations and share that capacity when it’s available, using the network more efficiently. This helps us maximise the use of existing resources by using latent capacity and running a more balanced electricity system.”

In a low carbon future, where electric vehicles and renewable generation are set to become more common, power sharing equipment such as the techniques tested by UK Power Networks, will be an innovative way to help network operators maintain the right balance on the electricity system for customers’ benefit.

FUN-LV is a research project funded by UK Power Networks and Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund. The project partners and suppliers are Imperial College London, Ricardo Energy & Environment, Turbo Power Systems, EA Technology Ltd, CGI and GE Grid Solutions.

The full report ‘Successful demonstrations of enhanced modes of operation of power electronics devices’ containing the trial results, is accessible here.