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National Grid ESO and Reactive Technologies launch flagship inertia system to measure grid stability

The stability service utilises an ultracapacitor which sits in the Teesside clean energy hub. Image: Reactive Technologies.

National Grid ESO and Reactive Technologies' flagship grid stability measurement service has launched today, following the construction of the world’s largest continuously operating grid-scale ultracapacitor.

Using Reactive’s GridMetrix technology, the new services will provide instantaneous data to the grid operator, allowing for more efficient management than relying on estimates.

The ultracapacitor – constructed by Spanish technology group Ingeteam – sends pulses through the grid, which act like underwater sound waves used in sonar. These pulses will enable the ESO to measure power system stability.

Once live, the system will be able to provide a real-time view of inertia on the system, which will be critical given the growth of renewable energy in particular. Historically inertia – the force created by spinning mass that keeps the frequency of the grid stable – has been provided by fossil fuel plants. As these are shuttered and replaced by renewable generation, inertia has become an increasing challenge.

To tackle this, National Grid ESO signed contracts with five companies in January 2020, worth £328 million, to provide inertia without simultaneously producing electricity, in what the operator said was a world first.

“Our ambition to be able to operate an electricity system that can deliver periods of 100% zero carbon power by 2025 is a stretching target, but thanks to cutting-edge technologies such as this we’re on track to achieve a significant milestone on that zero carbon journey,” said Fintan Slye, executive director of National Grid ESO.

“Decarbonising our grid brings many challenges, but through collaboration and innovation we’ll continue to develop solutions to overcome them and bring about the sustainable energy network we urgently need.”

The new system has been installed in Teesside’s clean energy hub, just a few miles up the coast from where the cables of the Dogger Bank offshore wind farm – the largest in the world – will reach landfall. It will provide a significant contribution to the UK’s energy mix, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announcing a new target of 2035 for a 100% low carbon electricity grid increasing the need for a wider rollout of renewables.

Marc Borrett, CEO of Reactive Technologies said the commercial adoption of GridMetrix by the ESO was a “significant milestone in the journey of our technology from a conceptual innovation to a proven and fundamental grid management solution.”

“The challenges facing Britain on its net zero journey are familiar to grids across the world and with the support of our strategic investors and partners, we are extremely excited to help unlock as many 100% renewable grids around the world as possible, accelerating the global transition to a clean energy system.”

In August, the company completed a £20.5 million (US$15 million) funding round to enable further international expansion, which included backing from Bill Gates’ clean energy fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), UK investor BGF and American smart solutions manufacturer Eaton.

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