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UKPN: ANM reduced average connection time by 29 weeks

UKPN: ANM reduced average connection time by 29 weeks

Using our products, UK Power Networks is now offering significantly faster, managed grid connections resulting in capital investment savings of up to 90% compared with the costs for conventional unmanaged grid connections.

"By introducing Smarter Grid Solutions Active Network Management system to an area of our network, we have reduced connection costs for six new distributed generation customers by up to 90%, as well as offering them far shorter connection lead times.”

Sotiris Georgiopoulos , Flexible Program Director, UK Power Networks.

Cambridgeshire, in the East of England, has seen a substantial increase in connection requests from renewable energy generators of different types, including wind, solar, biomass, and anaerobic digestion. The costs and timescales for a grid connection in this area have in the past been uneconomic or too slow for new generation developers. By using our Active Network Management technology, UK Power Networks is now offering significantly faster, managed grid connections resulting in capital investment savings compared with the costs for conventional grid connection solutions.

The FPP project encompasses a section of the distribution grid that spans a 70 km2 rural area which has seen huge demand for distributed generation connections including wind, solar, biomass, and anaerobic digestion. As the number of connected distributed generators has grown, the available grid capacity for new generators to connect without significant network reinforcement has decreased. Typical capacity constraints identified in planning studies include thermal (where the rating of power lines or  transformers could be exceeded), reverse power flow (where the network is not designed to operate with increased levels of power flowing from a lower voltage level to a higher one) and voltage rise (where the voltage level could breach statutory voltage limits). Each connection applicant could cause one or more of these constraints if not actively managed. The connection applicant must pay for any grid reinforcement at their connecting voltage level and one voltage up. Reinforcement beyond that is the responsibility of UK Power Networks (the distribution utility) who must make a business case to the regulator as the cost would be socialised across all bill payers through normal transmission and distribution charging. Such a business case is often difficult to make without a clear indication that the asset will be fully utilised. Connection applicants in this area are therefore facing expensive and time- consuming grid upgrades to connect as a result of both their local and wider reinforcement works.

UK Power Networks deployed a Smarter Grid Solutions’ Active Network Management system so that it could offer generators a managed connection based on real-time control in response to the prevailing grid conditions. As part of the connection offer, UK Power Networks provides the connection applicant with an estimate of how often their export capacity will be curtailed. These estimates help the developers with their long-term planning and typically show a very low anticipated reduction in annual energy export capacity.

As well as controlling the output of the managed generators, our Active Network Management system coordinates a range of smart devices such as Automatic Voltage Control relays, Dynamic Line Rating relays and a Quadrature Booster Control System to perform power flow and voltage management, and to provide real-time ratings. A high-speed IP-based telecommunications platform using RF Mesh technology supplied by Silver Spring Networks supports the Active Network Management system. The system uses the IEC 61850 protocol for communication. This international standard for the design of electrical substation automation has allowed UK Power Networks to decrease the integration time for connecting new customers or for other new devices into the system.

Developers are recognising that the cost and time saving benefit of an actively managed connection far outweighs any inconvenience from occasional export capacity loss. As of October 2014, there are already 13 accepted connection offers with a total capacity of 36 MW, significantly increasing the hosting capacity of the distribution grid in Cambridgeshire.

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