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World-leading technology trial launched to make connection of renewables to the UK's electricity network faster and cheaper

11/02/2020

We have launched trials of the world’s only technology that can spot real-time levels of electrical surges in the network, by using two prototype monitors.

The prototype Real Time Fault Level Monitors help us actively manage the electricity network by measuring and managing the fault level (short circuit capacity) of electric power supply in real time. The trials are currently taking place in substations across Chester, Warrington and Liverpool in 2020.

The technology will enable new connections to be added to the network at a much lower cost. We're estimating that rolling out the tech across our electricity network could potentially save £5 million per year, with huge potential savings nationally too.

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.

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 game changer. In less than 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 we are leading the industry by supporting the development of this technology and running the first ever trial of the technology. The potential benefits for our customers are massive – improved resilience of the network, faster renewables connections, reduced costs and a more efficient network.”

We’ve invested £140,000 to partner with Outram Research on this 12-month trial. Outram Research has been working for the last decade to produce the prototypes following us approaching their 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 freely-given all-embracing support, both theoretical and practical, have 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.”

We’ve also partnered with Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS), the Glasgow-based energy software specialist. SGS will be 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.

Alan Gooding, executive director and co-founder of SGS, said: “This is an 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. This gives customers better options and makes the grid more economic and flexible. Generating more power from renewables and storing that energy until it is needed are both essential elements of the UK hitting its legally-binding 2050 net-zero commitment.”

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