For National Grid Smart Wires article 'Working smarter to get to net zero'

Working smarter to get to net zero

How we get to net zero is a question on everyone’s minds. To achieve this, we need to transfer more renewable power to our customers. Here we look at how National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) is using transformational technology to remove bottlenecks and unlock significant network capacity.

As renewables connect to the network, power flows change and circuits become unequally loaded, causing the strained circuit to overload. And, as power naturally flows through the path of least impedance, when even one circuit reaches capacity the entire network is unable to absorb any more power.

Unlocking extra electricity capacity

Circuits at substations in the north of England, near Harker, Penwortham and Saltholme, were identified as renewable power-flow bottlenecks; as these substations were reaching capacity while surrounding circuits were still below their limits.

But we now have a solution; new technology from the US, Smart Wires, intelligently routes power to circuits that do have capacity, allowing us to maximise our existing network.

SmartValveTM is a power-electronics-based device that actively balances power flows on transmission lines. Put simply, SmartValve can push power off overloaded lines or pull power on to underused lines.

Put simply, SmartValve can push power off overloaded lines or pull power on to underused lines.

We are installing 48 SmartValves across five circuits at three substations in the UK. These devices can then operate autonomously or be actively controlled by the network operator.

Communication equipment is installed in the substation control house and connects the SmartValves into the SCADA system, which provides supervisory control and data acquisition. This allows the Electricity System Operator (ESO) to operate the SmartValves at each substation from its Berkshire control centre. 

Renewable energy power to 1 million homes

This new technology unlocks 1.5 gigawatts of electric capacity – enough to power 1 million homes with renewable energy.

It will equip National Grid ESO with the right tools to quickly reduce any congestion that’s limiting renewable generation on the network – and we’re doing this with minimal impact on communities and the environment.

Pioneering this innovative flexible technology

Traditionally, adding network capacity involves installing and upgrading new and existing lines, which takes many years, with greater environmental and financial costs. Now, with this new power-flow-control technology, NGET is able to make the existing network more efficient.

SmartValve’s modular nature gives us a flexible solution and we’re leading the way globally, by being the first to implement this technology at a large scale across our transmission network. And because the technology is modular, it’s quick to install, easy to scale and we can even relocate it as our needs change in the future.

By installing this new technology, we’re using innovative technology to maximise the use of our existing networks – helping us to achieve a clean and affordable energy future.

…we’re using innovative technology to maximise the use of our existing networks – helping us to achieve a clean and affordable energy future.

David Wright, Chief Engineer for National Grid, said: “Harnessing the potential of new innovative technologies to enhance benefits for customers and consumers is at the heart of everything we do. I’m proud to see NGET leading the way in pioneering transformational and innovative engineering to achieve wide-scale decarbonisation and overcome bottlenecks that are preventing maximum use of our networks.

“I’m delighted to see Smart Wires intelligent technology installed on National Grid’s transmission network, making it a world’s first for large-scale use – this will be key to unlocking extra capacity safely and quickly.”