Power Potential pilot plots path to pots of plenty, practitioners posit


Nine months of ‘world’s first’ trials into reactive power point the way to a potential £100 million market across the UK, National Grid ESO has concluded.

Voltage control to preserve hearty Hertzes across Kent’s and Sussex’s contested grids has been delivered by the ESO’s £10 million Power Potential pilot, run with DNO UKPowerNetworks.

Reactive power is a service permitting more power to be crammed into existing wires. It works by  artificially supporting voltages from intermittent suppliers.

Balancing grid frequencies under intermittent wind and solar has long posed problems for grid operators. Though Britain’s present gold rush of investment in batteries yields some answers, transmission engineers need other tools.

UKPN and NG-ESO calculate that their pilot will permit 1.5GW more carbon-light power to flow across otherwise crowded networks. The south-east’s continental interconnectors, scheduled to soar in capacity from 2GW to 5GW by 2030, add to the project’s importance.

Market re-definition also figures in transcos’ toolkits. Economists in Cambridge University’s Energy Policy Research Group have advised that a South East-focused market for reactive power could save £19.5 million by mid-century, against costs of traditional grid-easing measures. Deployed nationwide, that benefit could rise fivefold.

Memorably monikered as TDI (Transmission and Distribution Interface) 2.0, the workaround also opens up prospects of revenue earning for gridcos.

Gateshead-based ZIV Automation developed a management system, DERMS, for the pilot. Once integrated into National Grid’s platform for ancillary services, the systems will constitute a trading platform for suppliers and transmission operators.

2019 saw two smaller sub-regional tests of reactive power:

  • That October, NG-ESO issued a tender to alleviate high voltage bottlenecks on Merseyside
  • In November, Lightsource BP used power stored from a solar farm, providing overnight balancing to NG-ESO

National Grid ESO operability manager Graham Stein commented: “This trial demonstrates the value of challenging perceived constraints of organisational and technical boundaries, and seeing how risks can be managed with diligence and shared ambition.”

The NG-ESO’s explanation of Power Potential is here.


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