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UKPN and ABB unveil new digital substation project dubbed Constellation

Image: UKPN.

Image: UKPN.

ABB and UK Power Networks (UKPN) have unveiled a new digital substation protection and control project, which will enable more renewables to be integrated onto the grid.

The Constellation project will look to make substations more intelligent at a local level, making them capable of analysing millions of datapoints and automatically reconfiguring the network to safely enable higher volumes of electricity to flow through it.

Solutions from ABB will be used to deliver a software-orientated wide area protection system, based on 5G telecoms networks for communication between the medium voltage substations across UKPN’s network.

It is the latest example of ABB working to develop “smart distribution solutions to provide customers with greater reliability and safety” commented Stephen Gibbs, ABB UK’s product marketing director for Distribution Solutions.

The system will enable real-time monitoring and control of distributed energy resources (DERs) and support the digitalisation of the protection algorithm that is traditionally embedded in intelligent electronic devices. Going forwards, this approach could help create the next generation of protection and control concepts that rely on software as opposed to hardware, ABB noted.

Constellation has received funding through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC) for the development of the system. ABB’s solution will be based on EC 61850 standard, and will integrate in with other parts of the multi-vendor project.

As the share of renewables in the electricity mix continues to grow, network operators are increasingly looking at ways to integrate them into the grid more efficiently. This new approach could potentially unlock 1.4GW of network capacity, leading to cost efficiencies of £750 million for network operators. Of this, ABB’s technology could facilitate savings of £348 million the company said.

“With the UK government setting the ambitious target of achieving net zero by 2050, we are creating a platform that will enable us to deploy this smart solution throughout the country and enable more renewable energy to connect quickly and efficiently,” Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UKPN, said.

“The Constellation project will play a key role in ensuring the seamless integration of DERs into the network, releasing grid capacity and ultimately saving money for our customers.”


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