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National Grid ESO trial with UKPN finds reactive power could unlock 1.5GW of capacity in south east

Image: UK Power Networks

Image: UK Power Networks

Savings of up to £100 million could be made with the introduction of a national reactive power market according to a trial conducted by National Grid ESO and UK Power Networks (UKPN).

Wind, solar and battery storage have been providing market-based reactive power services across Kent and Sussex as part of the Power Potential project, with the first end-to-end live trial starting in October 2020.

Created to help manage the increase in wind, solar and battery storage connecting to local electricity networks, with the south and east of England in particular having seen a significant rise in these technologies, the project has therefore demonstrated how wind and solar can dynamically feed in power to provide voltage control services to balance the system.

A Distributed Energy Resources Management System was developed by ZIV Automation, enabling the renewable technologies to provide the reactive power services.

Reactive power is a service that maintains voltage levels to allow more energy to be transported down existing infrastructure, with the Power Potential project able to enable an extra 1.5GW of green energy to be generated in the region.

Additionally, a regional reactive power market in the south east 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 according to the Energy Policy Research Group, an academic project partner based at the University of Cambridge.

Having completed live trials, National Grid ESO is to 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.

In October 2019, the system operator announced a tender for reactive power absorption to solve a high voltage requirement in the Mersey region, 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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