As nations begin to add an increasing number of renewable energy sources into their generation mix, the need for grid balancing becomes increasingly important. Utilities are tasked with managing the flow of electricity to homes and businesses on a real-time basis. When power is generated and enters the network, these utilities must balance the network, ensuring that supply and demand are matched at any given moment. When more sources of generation are added in (traditional combustion-based generation coupled with wind, solar, hydro and other renewables), the task becomes more complex.
In the U.K., Electricity North West (ENWL) Limited recently launched a voltage control pilot called Customer Load Active System Services, or CLASS. Traditional load balancing projects involve conservation voltage reduction to save energy. In this project, ENWL plans to install smart boxes at the substation level that can adjust voltage to provide frequency regulation to help balance the increasing renewables on the grid.
“The key purpose of the trial is to show that we can predict the amount of response available at any point in time,” Steve Cox (News - Alert), head of future networks at ENWL, recently told Green Tech Media.
The more renewables are used, the greater the need for smart grid balancing, particularly for grids serving a large number of people. ENWL provides power to about five million people in the UK. To manage the grid to a more precise degree, ENWL has implemented Siemens (News - Alert) voltage controllers at 80 substations serving nearly half a million customers. General Electric is providing the network operations software for the project.
Green Tech Media notes that the technology could allow for an additional 1.2 gigawatts of wind across all of the U.K. if it is fully deployed. The only side effects customers might notice is that it may take a few extra seconds to boil the kettle on the stove, if the voltage was cubed, or it might boil a few seconds faster, if the voltage has been boosted.
The trial was created to test the technology to see what effects might be noticed by customers. The U.K. government’s Low Carbon Fund kicked about £9 million ($14.5 million) into the project.
Edited by Alisen Downey