Colin Green, UK head of regulatory affairs and technology at ABB’s Power Grids division, outlines how ABB is enabling the shift towards a smarter power system in this sponsored post.
The UK’s power industry is entering a period of dramatic change, as we shift away from the traditional ‘top-down’ model of power generation, transmission and distribution to one where generation resources are widely distributed, increasingly intermittent and counted in the thousands rather than the hundreds. This shift will demand previously unheard-of levels of system flexibility in order to allow both demand and supply to flex in response to changes in power generation and consumption. The ability to ensure continuity of supply at the correct voltage and frequency in this increasingly complex and unpredictable environment will be one of the key challenges for power network operators, especially for mission-critical applications.
The recently published ‘Smart Power’ report from the National Infrastructure Commission sets out the challenges – and opportunities – facing the UK power industry very well. The report highlights the three key areas in which the UK needs to innovate over the coming decades in order to take full advantage of what it calls the smart power revolution: interconnection, storage and demand flexibility.
As an island nation, the UK does not currently have the number of capacity of power interconnections enjoyed by our continental neighbours. Increasing and improving the UK’s interconnections will help to balance supply and demand and manage consumer costs. Increasing the number of connections to lower-cost, green power supplies in countries such as Norway and Iceland could benefit the UK greatly.
Energy storage is highlighted as a key area for attention. As the UK’s rotating power reserve is lost with the decommissioning of large, centralised power stations, energy storage solutions will be vital to maintaining grid frequency and voltage levels within mandated tolerances. Here, regulations will play a vital role in ensuring a level playing field between generation and storage.
When it comes to demand flexibility, a whole raft of sophisticated energy management solutions are coming on stream that will help enterprise and residential consumers optimise their electricity usage in ways that both reduce overall costs and balance supply and demand.
Traditionally, power network operators have had the flexibility to balance supply and demand mostly through controlling the output of large, centralised generation resources in real time. As we make the shift towards a far greater number of smaller, distributed generation resources, with a far greater proportion of renewable energy sources, balancing supply and demand becomes a much more complex challenge.
The future power network may well be a collection of thousands of semi-autonomous micro- and nano-grids, featuring a mixture of renewable and non-renewable energy sources and energy storage systems in a variety of forms, complemented by multiple interconnects to other power grids. This will demand sophisticated management systems to control and dispatch the multiple energy resources at regional and local levels.
However, for ABB, this is not a futuristic possibility but a development of field-proven technology solutions that we have already deployed in dozens of installations around the world over the past 15 years. ABB is already delivering stabilization, automation and intelligent control solutions that manage renewable energy generation in microgrids, ensuring utility-grade power quality and grid stability.
Microgrid control solutions combine control software with flywheel- or battery-based grid stabilizing systems. They calculate the most economical power configuration, ensuring a proper balance of supply and demand that maximizes renewable energy integration, providing for up to 100% renewable penetration and highest level of stability and reliability. This optimizes the network’s generator operations so the entire system performs at peak potential.
Such smart grid solutions also provide demand–response capabilities to help balance consumption with supply, as well as the potential to integrate new technologies to enable energy storage and the large-scale use of electric vehicles.
ABB has specific expertise in integrating grid-scale battery-based energy storage
solutions. Large-scale batteries will be needed to meet the performance and reliability needs of grid operators, especially in frequency response services. They need to be successfully integrated with the right power control systems, power converters, switchgear, transformers and overall management system.
ABB has the in-depth knowledge and experience in smart grid technologies to ensure UK operators have the flexibility they need to balance supply and demand and deliver a high-quality, resilient electricity supply to consumers.