UK Power Networks’ Flexible Urban Networks LV (FUN-LV) project team walked away with the Industry Innovation Award at European Utility Week. This prestigious award recognises the team for implementing an award-winning innovative technology project which plays a vital role in the development of a sustainable industry. We caught up with Peter Lang, UK Power Networks, at European Utility Week to gain more insight into the winning project. [interview attached]
Award winning project
The demonstration project involves 24 installations of power electronics devices (PEDs) which connect the low voltage (LV) distribution networks in the busy city centres of London and Brighton. FUN-LV is supported with funding from Ofgem’s Low Carbon Network Fund.
The PEDs, developed by Turbo Power Systems which is based in Gateshead, are the first of a kind to demonstrate the concept of a Soft Open Point joining the LV distribution networks of two or three secondary substations (MV/LV) allowing the control of real and reactive power flow without increasing the fault level normally associated with simple interconnection of networks.
UK Power Networks defined the equipment specification in April 2014 and within eighteen months, twelve 400kW three terminal devices (installed within secondary substations) and twelve 240kW two terminal devices (a cabinet installed on the pavement) were developed and delivered by Turbo Power Systems. These were commissioned on LV distribution networks in September 2015. To date, these devices have shown they can control real power flow allowing a heavily loaded transformer to be supported by one or two other connected transformers.
An algorithm, developed by Imperial College London, monitors the level of demand on connected transformers and then autonomously determines the level of required transfer to resolve the network constraint. These devices share capacity and provide support voltage. This allows more low carbon generation, e.g. PV installations and other low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles, to connect without triggering significant network reinforcement.
In busy city centres, buying a site to build a secondary MV/LV substation can be very expensive. These PEDs will be assessed to determine their cost effectiveness as they can be installed within existing substations or directly on the pavement. The time to obtain the necessary consents to build a new substation can be in excess of 18 months, whereas the PED can be built, delivered and commissioned in three months.
Power electronics have been used by the industry for many years to control motors and other balanced three phase loads. This is the first time that a power electronics device has been connected to an unbalanced three phase distribution network. The PED has the ability to improve the imbalance between the three phases and reduce the amount of current flowing in the neutral conductor and in turn reduce losses. In addition, the level of harmonics can be reduced by the PED.
The development team is a collaboration of a distribution network operator, a power electronics manufacturer and academia. Team members included power engineers, telecoms specialists, power electronics system and control engineers. To deliver this project in the tight timescales shows high levels of cooperation and technical excellence.
It is expected that this technology could be introduced into any major city where differences in phase angle, high fault levels or differences in system impedance create barriers preventing capacity sharing. Distribution network PEDs will create new markets for power electronics manufacturers.