National Grid and Smart Wires aim to reduce grid bottlenecks with innovative software tool

National Grid is working with Smart Wires on an innovation project to make better use of grid enhancing technologies like advanced power flow controllers, with the goal of reducing network congestion and maximising the potential of existing infrastructure.

The Network Innovation Allowance funded project aims to develop a tool to coordinate the installation and operation of advanced power flow control (APFC) devices like Smart Wires’ SmartValve™, to avoid network constraints and boost the amount of clean energy flowing.

As electricity generation and demand decarbonises, the way power flows across the network is becoming more complex to manage, with transmission circuits easily becoming unequally loaded and less efficient at carrying energy.

This innovation could exploit the potential of our network and boost the volume of clean power our circuits can carry.

Technologies like APFCs can help resolve bottlenecks, intelligently pushing and pulling power across circuits in real-time and routing it to where capacity is available, freeing up electricity flow.

The innovation project’s aim is for the new tool to help coordinate the dispatch of existing APFCs on the network, while identifying the best locations for additional grid enhancing technologies – including dynamic line rating (DLR) – to be installed in the future.

Following an innovation project in 2019 to investigate the benefits of power flow controllers, National Grid installed SmartValves at three substations in northern England – Harker, Penwortham and Saltholme – to operate across five circuits, with a further installation in planning at South Shields.

Around £390 million is estimated to be saved over a seven-year period due to reduced constraint costs and avoided expenditure on new infrastructure build, with over 2GW of north-south power flow capacity being unlocked.

Gary Stockdale, net zero innovation manager at National Grid Electricity Transmission, said: “This project will give us better insight to fully exploit the potential of grid enhancing technologies on our network, and boost the volume of clean power our circuits can carry around the country.

“Having already rolled out Smart Wires devices at several of our substations, we’re pleased to be continuing our partnership with them to explore innovative ways to make best use of the technology for the benefit of consumers.”

Hêdd Roberts, General Manager for Europe and APAC at Smart Wires, said: “Our collaboration with National Grid on this new software-based project will optimise the deployment of grid enhancing technologies, paving the way for a more efficient and sustainable grid in the UK and abroad.”

National Grid is also currently trialling DLR technology from LineVision on its network on a circuit between Penwortham and Kirkby, with line sensors and weather data analytics helping to increase the power-carrying limit of the line and potentially save consumers millions.

Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance provides an allowance to energy network licensees to fund innovation projects that have the potential to deliver longer term financial and environmental benefits for consumers.