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SPEN: Accelerating Renewable Connections

SPEN: Accelerating Renewable Connections

The South East of Scotland is characterised by relatively low electricity demand and a natural geography that lends itself to renewable generation projects.  Many of the Grid Supply Points, the interface to the transmission network, are already operating at capacity and have reverse power flows.  SP Energy Networks (SPEN), part of the Iberdrola Group - the local Distribution Utility, had a significant challenge in integrating more generation without significant distribution and transmission reinforcement, a scenario which would result in expensive connections and lengthy lead times for any new connections.   As a consequence, over 90% of connection applications being processed by SPEN in the area failed to proceed, resulting in millions being spent which could have been avoided.

SPEN partnered with Smarter Grid Solutions to deliver the Accelerating Renewable Connections (ARC) project.  ARC is fast-tracking the connection of renewables across the area and improving customer service by deploying our Active Network Management technology to manage distribution and transmission constraints and transforming the connections process using online interactive tools to allow developers to assess the viability of a likely connection before making an application.

Despite serving around 14% of UK demand, SP Energy Networks (SPEN), the local Distribution Utility for the South East of Scotland, hosts approximately 28% of all of the renewable energy in the UK.  The South East of Scotland has an array of natural resources making it a popular location for a wide range of distributed generation projects, including wind, solar, biomass and anaerobic digestion.  The area is mainly rural with a number of towns and communities making up local load. 

The distribution feeders are running out of distributed generation hosting capacity.  The result is that 90% of connections offered in this area are rejected because the quote is too high or the time to build is too long.  The quotes include; sole use assets, distribution and transmission network upgrades to reinforce the network and create additional capacity.  The consequence is that SPEN is unable to offer economically viable connection options to customers and is spending millions of pounds processing applications that are unlikely to be accepted.

To address the combined but inter-related problems of aborted connection applications and limited distributed generation hosting capacity SPEN is rolling out our Active Network Management (ANM) products.  Our ANM 100 product is being rolled out to three critical Grid Supply Points to control connected generators in real time by managing voltage and power constraints on both the transmission and distribution networks.  Each system operates autonomously and integrates seamlessly with existing communications, monitoring, protection and SCADA control infrastructure.

A number of new commercial arrangements have been implemented to enable the real-time control of the distributed generation.  This includes new commercial agreements with the transmission network operator and the transmission system operator to permit real time control of the distribution connected generation to manage the network constraints on the transmission grid.  A critical aspect in developing these agreements has been the deterministic and predictable way that ANM 100 operates. To reduce the number of connection applications that are unlikely to be progressed we developed an interactive Distributed Generation Connection Application to provide a real time view of connection capacity for a managed connection as part of the ANM roll-out.  The online tool is backed up by our existing desktop analysis tools which are used by connection planning teams to perform detailed assessment of distributed generation hosting capacities.  The tool, which incorporates information on capacity for both 11kV and 33kV circuits, will allow generators to assess the viability of generator sites prior to engaging in the formal application process.   This self-service approach avoids clearly unviable applications being made to SPEN, saving both time and money while improving customer service.

Across the trial area, the introduction of ANM has accelerated the connection date for generation customers by up to 10 years.  The first distributed generation connections expect to be live in early 2015. The online connection application tool has been demonstrated to customers and will go live for the entire trial area in early 2015.  The response SPEN has received from the distributed generation customers has been exceptionally positive. - 85% of their distributed generation customers either agreed or strongly agreed that SPEN should ‘concentrate effort and give this top priority on bringing this online for the whole network’.

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