UK utility invests in smart substations


UK utility Northern PowerGrid has launched the second phase of its grid modernisation initiative, which includes upgrading substations with smart models.

The project is being implemented in partnership with ZIV Automation and follows a successful pilot.

The utility is investing £15 million to replace Remote Terminal Units (RTUS) with next generation of substation controllers under the Smart Grid Enablers project.

The project will run through to 2023 and will enable the energy provider to integrate smart grid solutions and applications within its operations and grid infrastructure.

A total of 860 substations will be modernised under the £83 million Smart Grid Enablers programme.

Northern Powergrid operates 8,000 substations across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, delivering power to 3.9 million homes and businesses in the region.

The project will help Northern PowerGrid to prepare its grid for surges in distributed energy resources; including electric vehicles, domestic heat pumps and renewable power.

The initiative forms efforts to reduce the utility’s carbon footprint, achieve energy efficiency savings of up to £500 million by 2031 and to become a distributed system operator.

The substation controllers will allow engineers to access real-time data regarding the performance of a substation.

Data and commands will be acquired and sent via a Network Management System to enable digital and remote control of equipment including circuit breakers and tap changers.

Mark Nicholson, head of smart grid implementation at Northern Powergrid, says: “This is a significant and technically challenging operation drawing on many of our highly specialist technical functions across the business.

“The advantage at the end of this work will be infrastructure that will enable us to operate our network in a more flexible way to deliver more value for our customers through smarter, more efficient and cost-effective services.”

Under the pilot of the initiative, ZIV Automation and Northern PowerGrid developed software and integrating communications programmes and tested RTUs in the North East and Yorkshire, Beeston Royds, Dunkeswick, Chirton Grange and Wansbeck substations.

The next phase of the £15 million project will build on experience developed in this initial phase and provide a platform for developing further substation functionality, ensuring maximum return on investment.