Our trial to restart electricity network entirely from renewables

27/05/2022

We have led a successful trial to re-energise its electricity network by using pioneering technology to tap into renewable energy from wind turbines and hydro generation.

We conducted the trial in Galloway as part of the second phase of a world-leading project to show how the range of smaller energy sources could be used to restore power in the highly unlikely event of a partial or total shutdown of the national electricity transmission system. 

Traditionally, wide scale system recovery in such a scenario has only been possible by utilising large fossil fuel power systems. 

However, the Ofgem-funded Distributed ReStart project - which is a partnership between SP Energy Networks, National Grid ESO and specialist energy consultancy TNEI - is exploring the use of Distributed Energy Sources (DERs) such as solar, wind or hydro, to kickstart the energy system. 

This latest trial saw us connect a hydro generator in Kendoon and power wind turbines across two small wind farms at Glenchamber and North Rhins to re-energise the network in an isolated test. 

The ground-breaking trial paves the way for a radically different approach to system restoration, using renewables to help to reduce costs and drive the country forward towards Net Zero emissions targets. 

Scott Mathieson, our Network Planning & Regulation Director, said: "The increasingly complex needs of our energy system, coupled with the significant increase in both demand for green electricity and generation our networks need to accommodate, means it is crucial we ensure its continued security and resilience.

“We’re really encouraged by the success of this latest trial on the Distributed ReStart project, which could be vitally important, not just in Scotland and the UK, but worldwide.

“Using DERs and green energy to restore the energy system would increase the diversity of providers, helping to save millions of pounds in costs for customers thanks to a more competitive market. It can also save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions by negating the need for coal and gas power stations, therefore pushing us forward on decarbonisation plans as we strive to reach net zero emissions.


“We know our customers are becoming increasingly dependent on their electricity supply for all of their activities, whether it’s heat or transport, which is why we’re absolutely focused on ensuring we build the network we know they need now and long into the future.”

SP Energy Networks leads the live network trial workstream on the Distributed ReStart project and delivered this test in collaboration with National Grid ESO. Coordination was therefore not only required between the National Grid ESO and SP Energy Networks control rooms, but also in the coordination of multiple operational resources and people in preparation for and during the live testing. 

Julian Leslie, Head of Networks at National Grid ESO, said: “We have one of the world’s most reliable electricity networks, but our role is to be prepared for the most extraordinary of scenarios, including a nationwide power outage.

“This trial is a breakthrough moment for our Distributed ReStart project, which stands to improve system resilience and security of supply in a cleaner and cheaper way.

“We are always innovating for a greener future and the huge growth of green energy sources on distribution networks presents an opportunity to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and co-ordinate a black start using renewables.

“The concept of meeting our grid restoration needs by renewable generation alone has become closer to reality as a result of this trial.”

Read more about the project here: Distributed ReStart innovation project

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