SP Energy Networks (SPEN) has launched a trial of two prototype monitors, claiming the technology to be the first in the world to be able to spot real-time electrical surges on the network.

These Real Time Fault Level Monitors can track and measure electrical levels in real time and manage them to prevent surges. They will be trialed at substations in Chester, Warrington and Liverpool across the next year as part of the £140,000 trial.

The company says that adding the monitors could greatly ease the connection of new assets such as renewables to the grid. This could potentially save the network £5 million a year as it will remove the need to replace switchgears at substations.

Scott Mathieson, network planning and regulation director at SP Energy Networks called the technology a “game changer”.

“In less than 20-seconds we can see the exact, real-time short circuit capacity of our electricity network and work out how to fix any problems.

“The potential benefits for our customers are massive – improved resilience of the network, faster renewables connections, reduced costs and a more efficient network.”

The monitors have produced by Outram Research over the last decade, following a call to action from the network. John Outram, director at Outram Research said they were “delighted” to accept SPEN’s original Fault Level Measurement challenge in 2010.

“Since then their enthusiasm and freely-given all-embracing support, both theoretical and practical, have nurtured our work, leading now to this major capability. We’re looking forward to seeing the outcomes of the trial and the benefits this will release not only for the electricity network, but for customers too.”

Smarter Grid Solutions is providing its ANM Strata and ANM Element software for the trial, avoiding excessive risk of additional power flowing into a short circuit as additional generators, along with energy storage, are added to high fault level parts of the distribution networks.

Huge amounts of new generation will need to be connected to the grid in coming years in the UK if is to meet its net zero decarbonisation goal by 2050. Worldwide renewable electricity generation could soar by 50% over the next five year according to the International Energy Association. This is likely to come from increasingly distributed generation sources, including solar.

As electrification of transport and heating also gathers pace, further generation capacity will be needed. According to a report by BNEF electrification of transport, buildings and industrial sectors in Europe could cut greenhouse gas emissions of those sectors by 60% between 2020 and 2050, but the power system could need 75% more generation capacity to meet this.

Networks are increasingly looking at ways to update the grid to allow for increased renewables, looking to new technologies. UKPN for example, recently installed a “world first” circuit breaker that could allow 460MW of extra distributed generation.

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