Recently, GE announced a Low Carbon Network Fund (LCN Fund) project with Western Power Distribution (WPD). The research initiative is revealing how carbon-reducing technologies, like distributed solar panels, can impact the electricity network. Study results will create a set of “reusable network templates” to help utilities plan more efficient, more reliable, lower-carbon networks worldwide. The project has been awarded by United Kingdom’s Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) LCN Fund. The LCN Fund is sponsoring £500 million of low-carbon research over the next five years to spur the radical change electricity networks need to make the low-carbon energy sector a reality.
“We’re making the real world our research lab and learning what really happens when we add new generation and consumption technologies to our power grid,” said Peter Aston, innovation and low carbon networks manager at WPD. “Building new power network designs based on remotely accessible, accurate views of actual usage gives us a powerful advantage over computer models and simulations. We’ll know the true effects of system changes because we will be able to collect and analyse the low voltage network data in a way we haven’t been able to do before.”
Key to the project’s success is GE Energy usage sensors that will be distributed throughout Southwest England and South Wales. Sensors at 1,000 substations will record demand and voltage data, while sensors at 8,000 homes will record voltage profile data. The information will be compiled and analyzed by researchers at the University of Bath. The Bath research team will apply engineering and statistical analysis methods to the network patterns to create “network templates” to guide optimal power grid design and upgrades around the United Kingdom.
“Today we’re using the power grid in ways that were not even conceivable when the system was originally designed,” said Keith Redfearn, general manager digital energy in Western Europe for GE Energy. “With GE sensors transmitting network data, we can help create the roadmap to lower energy’s carbon footprint and incorporate innovation more effectively and efficiently.”Carbon-saving technologies, such as rooftop solar panels distributed throughout the network, create challenges for a system originally designed to accept electricity from large, centrally located power plants. GE’s sensors will report the voltage, network status, capacity and network stress as new technologies are deployed. Researchers will be able to determine the best ways to smooth loads, lower stress, optimize performance and maximize the energy-delivery capacity of the entire network.
“We’re creating network templates in order to build a more reliable, more efficient and less carbon-filled energy future,” added Aston. “Our greater knowledge of the way the network operates will help us with all aspects of our business, helping us to improve the service to our customers.”