Power Potential trial demonstrates voltage control from renewables


National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and network operator UK Power Networks have demonstrated a reactive power market in southern England.

Power Potential was developed to help manage the rapid increase in wind and solar generation and battery storage connecting to the electricity networks in the south and east of England, amounting to over 7GW over the past decade.

The project built a Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS), which was developed by technical specialists ZIV Automation.

This enabled wind, solar and storage batteries across Kent and Sussex to provide market-based reactive power services, being paid to address voltage challenges on the national electricity system.

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The Energy Policy Research Group at the University of Cambridge, the academic partner, estimates that a new regional reactive power market in the southeast alone could save £19.5 million ($27 million) by 2050 and close to £100 million ($138 million) if rolled out across Great Britain, when compared to the long-term alternative of investing in traditional devices.

By addressing voltage challenges, Power Potential could also enable an extra 1.5GW of green energy to be generated in the region.

“This is an incredible milestone in our work to deliver a net zero emissions electricity system that works for all,” says Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks.

“Power Potential has been one of our most ambitious projects ever, and its success is down to the dozens of dedicated experts who worked tirelessly throughout. Together, we’ve shown how a distribution system operator can enable new services and create tangible benefits, a win for consumers, a win for networks and a win for clean air.”

Future of reactive power

With the live trials now complete, National Grid ESO will use the insights to support the work in its Future of Reactive Power project. The initiative will explore options for the ESO to access greater volumes of reactive power from previously untapped sources.

The project partners are also now investigating how to use and develop the services as part of their Regional Development Programme partnerships in England’s South Coast.

“The project’s output will facilitate the continued growth of renewable energy, inform effective development of distribution system operator capability and help us achieve zero carbon,” says Graham Stein, network operability manager at National Grid ESO.

“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.”

Using a combination of technical, market and commercial analysis the project is designing a market-based solution. Recommendations on the next steps are expected in Q2 of 2022.