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SPEN and UKPN hail success of ‘world's first’ real-time fault level measurement device

Image: SPEN.

Image: SPEN.

The “world’s first” real-time fault level measurement device can provide results that are accurate to 1%.

According to an independent report commissioned by ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and UK Power Networks (UKPN), the new device developed by project partner Outram Research Limited can measure the potential electrical current when a network fault occurs. In doing so it can ensure that the network is managed safely and efficiently, dramatically minimising the time it takes for networks to get results, which currently takes several days.

The system was tested at the Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC) on a section of network from SPEN’s patch. These tests showed less than a 1% error at 11kV, which far out-performs the 5% margin targeted by the industry.

“We’ve always believed this technology will be a real gamechanger, so we’re pleased to have it validated by the PNDC,” said Scott Mathieson, director of network planning and regulation at SPEN.

“The real-time fault level monitoring technology will enable new connections, such as renewable energy generators, to be added to the network at a much lower cost – making this technology a key enabler for a just transition to net zero.”

The project is being managed through the Energy Innovation Centre, with UKPN joining as the latest partner. In total, over £800,000 of funding has been committed to the project across all its partners.

It’s hoped the new system will allow safe connection of higher volumes of renewable energy without expensive network upgrades. Grid capacity is one of the key barriers for increasing the volumes of renewables around Britain currently, with Solar Energy UK saying between 100-300MW of solar projects a year are being abandoned because of grid challenges for example.

The results of the testing is a key milestone for the project, following testing being launched in February 2020. Rolling out this new real-time fault level measurement device going forwards could save £5 million per year for SPEN alone, the distribution network operator noted.

John Outram, managing director at Outram Research Ltd added that they were pleased to “have further, independent confirmation of the accuracy of the Fault Level Measurement algorithm used in all of our Fault Level Monitoring devices, both in the Real Time units and those using natural disturbances to derive results".

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