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Britain’s first smart grid to open to connection applications again

Orkney has been used as something of a test bed for the energy transition, as it has huge amounts of renewable energy capacity. Image: SSEN.

Orkney has been used as something of a test bed for the energy transition, as it has huge amounts of renewable energy capacity. Image: SSEN.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution has called for new renewable generation and storage connection applications to be added to its smart grid on Orkney.

Set up in 2009, the company’s Active Networks Management (ANM) system on the islands was Britain’s first, allowing 21.8MW of renewable generation to be connected to the electricity network using smart grid implementation technology.

By 2012, the system had reached its limit and SSEN had to suspend new connections while network upgrades were made. This includes a new 220MW transmission link between Orkney and mainland Scotland, which was granted conditional approval by Ofgem in September 2019.

Thanks to development of the ANM system that has now been completed, SSEN can release additional capacity on the distribution network from Wednesday 23 September.

Andy Huthwaite, director of connections at SSEN, said the company was pleased to lift the suspension on new generation connections.

“To date, the first-of-its kind ANM system has mainly been used by wind generation. However, storage, tidal and other generation technology has advanced over the last few years and presents a unique opportunity for a new mixture of generation on the islands.

“As the headroom available is limited depending on diversity in the generation mix and current restrictions to export, I’d encourage anyone who is considering applying for a connection to speak to our team prior to submission for guidance and advice on the capacity available and any limitations for new proposed connections.”

Orkney has been used as something of a test bed for the energy transition as it has huge amounts of renewable energy capacity. By 2016, the Orkney islands were generating 120% of their total electricity needs from renewables, thanks in part to having some of the strongest winds and most energy-rich waters in Europe.

Currently, Orkney is being used to develop flexibility as part of Project TraDER, which went live in May. This trial, which is being developed by a consortium of partners led by Electron, is looking into real-time trading between renewable generation through a Local Energy Trading Market.

Project ReFLEX Orkney is also looking to develop new pathways for flexibility, through digitally lining intermittent renewable power to flexible demand on the islands.

Since the first ANM on Orkney, smart grids have become increasingly common in the UK as the country looks to manage increasing renewable penetration. Most recently, National Grid and SSEN announced it was rolling out an ANM system in the south coast of England to help manage distributed energy resources.

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