UK trial sees solar provide voltage control services with potential to unlock 1.5GW of new capacity

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Solar, wind and battery storage provided the reactive power in the project, with live trials now completed. Image: UK Power Networks.

Up to 1.5GW of new capacity could be unlocked in the south and east of England by using solar, battery storage and wind for voltage control services.

This is one of the findings of the Power Potential project, which was run by UK system operator National Grid ESO and distribution network operator UK Power Networks with the intention of helping to manage the increase in the renewable technologies seen across the country. In particular, the south and east of England have seen a significant rise in renewables, resulting in the need to unlock additional capacity through measures like the Power Potential Project.

A Distributed Energy Resources Management System was created by ZIV Automation for this, enabling the solar, storage and wind to provide reactive power, a service which maintains voltage levels to allow more energy to be transported down existing infrastructure.

As a result, academic project partner the Energy Policy Research Group found that a regional reactive power market in the south east of England could save £19.5 million by 2050 compared to the long-term alternative of investing in traditional devices and close to £100 million if rolled out across Great Britain.

Having completed live trials, National Grid ESO will use the insights to inform its Future of Reactive project looking at how to introduce a competitive market for buying reactive power across Great Britain.

Reactive power has been on the system operator’s agenda for while, and it launched a tender for reactive power absorption to solve a high voltage requirement in October 2019, while a month later Lightsource BP claimed a UK-first by providing reactive power services to National Grid ESO during nighttime hours using power generated by a solar farm.

Graham Stein, network operability manager at National Grid ESO, said that Power Potential’s output will facilitate the continued growth of renewable energy and inform the development of distribution system operator capability.

“It also demonstrates the value of challenging the perceived constraints of organisational and technical boundaries and how risks can be managed with diligence and shared ambition,” he added.

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