The challenge for all network operators is to be at the heart of facilitating low carbon technology and meeting government’s energy policy and aspirations around sustainability and security of supply, as well as affordability. This is according to Colin Taylor, Director of Engineering Services, Scottish Power (SP) Energy Networks, who spoke at Low Carbon Scotland.
Optimizing the network
Taylor explains that for SP Energy Networks, it is all about getting the most out of their existing network, really optimizing the capacity available, and avoiding investment where they can. “If we have to invest, investments are done efficiently. We also work closely with the local authorities to get the necessary planning consensus so we are not holding people up in terms of connecting these technologies.”
Taylor explained that there is a “boundary” between the distribution and transmission systems: “There are places where, in terms of capacity and the ability of those boundary assets to export generation via the transmission system, the capacity of those assets are exceeded. We are managing the flaws in our network to prevent the limits of these assets from being exceeded.”
He points out that SP Energy Networks is focused on its future grid architecture. “It’s all about knowing what is happening in your system in real time and getting the most out of our existing assets.”
It’s about real time and visibility
According to Taylor, it’s not enough to make assumptions when it comes to network operations. Utilities need accurate and up to date information on key points of the network. “It’s about real time information, visibility and control when it comes to optimizing an existing network. Detailed analytics will provide an optimum outcome whether it is to simply keep the lights on or push assets as hard as possible to transmit renewables more efficiently.”
Project VISOR (Visualisation of Real Time System Dynamics using Enhanced Monitoring), a four year project, is a good example of SP Energy Network’s intention to provide new insight into improving network planning and operation in the Borders. The project was granted £6.5 million by Ofgem.
VISOR is to demonstrate a potentially avoided investment benefit of £45 million for every 100MW capacity realized. It will provide the system operator with the ability and confidence to utilize the full capacity of the network where increasing volumes of wind generation lead to more volatile system flows, resulting in greater operating margins to maintain and manage network security. A conservative estimate of operational savings is £4 million per annum.