Energy tech firm Reactive Technologies has measured UK system-wide inertia. The data, verified by National Grid, is believed to be a world first.
‘Inertia’ is essentially what keeps the lights on.
National Grid relies on inertia to keep the UK power system at a constant frequency of 50Hz. If frequency drops or rises, for example, if an interconnector trips or a power station unexpectedly goes offline, the company has historically asked power stations to use massive spinning turbines running under capacity to feed in to the system. If there is too much power, it asks businesses to quickly stop exporting to the grid, alongside other measures.
With fossil plant, particularly coal, dropping off due to carbon taxes and fuel markets, inertia is diminishing. Meanwhile inflexible and less predictable generation is increasing and gigawatts of solar, alongside falling demand in summer, compound the issue.
With more accurate tools (inertia has always previously been estimated), National Grid can reduce rising balancing costs, which would lower all consumers’ bills.
Reactive Technologies says its software takes in live data to work out inertia levels on the system at any given time.
The company, which hired ex-Nokia telco engineers to develop its systems, has previously proven that data can be sent via the UK power system.
This latest development could potentially enable grid operators globally to sharpen their tools and cut energy bills. The UK alone spends £1bn a year balancing the system, with costs predicted to double by 2021. These costs are passed on to consumers.
Reactive Technologies’ inertia monitoring system is part of a bill-payer funded project under innovation trials conceived by Ofgem in order to encourage smarter systems and reduced costs to consumers. Delivering breakthrough, exportable, technologies is precisely the aim of the funding.
“Being part of this innovative project to continuously measure inertia will improve our understanding of how to monitor grid stability in a changing energy environment,” said Duncan Burt, acting director of System Operations at National Grid.
Marc Borrett, CEO at Reactive Technologies, said the technology “gives grid operators access to direct data measurements from a national level right down to a granular post code level, so they can operate more leanly and better manage the nation’s supply and demand in line with accurate, real-time information”.