UK-based electricity distributor SP Energy Networks has the world's only technology that can measure in real-time the short circuit capacity (Fault Level) of the network, by using two prototype monitors.
The prototype Real Time Fault Level Monitors help SP Energy Networks actively manage its network by measuring and managing the fault level of electric power supply in real time. The trials are currently taking place in substations across Chester, Warrington and Liverpool.
More renewable energy devices and battery storage units could be connected to existing distribution grids thanks to the project.
A 20-second reading from the Real Time Fault Level Monitor could remove the need for expensive and time-consuming switchgear replacement in substations, which becomes necessary when the fault level is exceeded. This could save millions of pounds on repairs, hours of engineer labour and closed substations.
This technology is to be combined with Active Network Management software to automatically avoid excessive risk of additional power flowing into any short circuit, from the connection of additional generation and energy storage in already high fault level parts of distribution networks.
The industry leading technology will allow for greater visibility of the entire electrical network at any given time as well as the ability to accommodate more renewable generation sources as the UK shifts to more sustainable energy to support the race to net zero.
Scott Mathieson, Network Planning and Regulation Director at SP Energy Networks said: "This technology is a gamechanger. In 20-seconds we can see the exact, real-time short circuit capacity of our electricity network and work out how to fix any problems.
"I'm proud that SP Energy Networks is leading the industry by supporting the development of this technology and running the first ever trial. The potential benefits for our customers are massive – improved resilience of the network, faster renewables connections, reduced costs and a more efficient network."
The technology will enable new connections to be added to the network at a much lower cost. SP Energy Networks estimates that rolling out the tech across its electricity network could potentially save the industry £5 million per year, with more potential savings nationally too.
SP Energy Networks has invested £140,000 to partner with Outram Research on this 12-month trial. Outram has been working for the last decade culminating in the Real Time Fault Level Monitor prototypes following SP Energy Networks approaching its research and development team in 2010.
John Outram, Director at Outram Research Limited, said: "We were delighted to accept SP Energy Networks' original Fault Level Measurement challenge. Since then, their enthusiasm and support, both theoretical and practical, has nurtured our work, leading now to this major capability. We're looking forward to seeing the outcomes of the trial and the benefits this will release not only for the electricity network, but for customers too."
SP Energy Networks has also enlisted the help of global energy software specialist Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS) to work on the new fault level solution.
SGS is using its ANM Strata and ANM Element software to avoid excessive risk of additional power flowing into any short circuit from the connection of additional generation and energy storage in already high fault level parts of distribution networks.
ANM Strata and ANM Element are used for active network management (ANM) flexible energy asset connections, including the operation of renewable energy devices, energy storage batteries and other distributed energy resources (DERs). In this fault level management solution, the ANM products are used to manage the additional generation and energy storage devices, enabling access only when the network fault level is within safe limits.
Alan Gooding, Executive Director and Co-Founder of SGS, said: "This is a really important project because fault level is one of the factors that's holding back the roll-out of more renewable energy generation and battery storage.
"Fault level isn't just a problem in Great Britain but on electricity grids throughout the world, which highlights the potential for this technology to be rolled out into other markets. Generating more power from renewables and storing that energy until it's needed are both essential elements of the UK hitting its legally-binding 2050 net-zero commitment.
"This is also an important new use for our ANM Strata and ANM Element software, adding to their existing uses for ANM across thermal and voltage constraint management, energy and flexibility market interaction, scheduling and optimisation."
SP Energy Networks owns and manages overhead and underground powerlines in Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, North Shropshire and Central and Southern Scotland.
SP Energy Networks | https://www.spenergynetworks.co.uk