Faraday Grid: Getting the balance right

Engerati spoke with Matthew Williams, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Faraday Grid ahead of their continued expansion into Europe and the US.
Published: Thu 04 Apr 2019

Faraday Grid took another step in the development of its automatic grid stability system this week by establishing an innovation centre in Prague. It bought two technology companies which comprise 100 experts in various industry specialities who will join in developing and testing the technology as it moves to commercialisation.

When deployed, the technology could transform global electricity distribution networks by solving one of the biggest challenges facing system operators: how to maintain grid stability while connecting thousands of small intermittent sources of generation.

The company is demonstrating the technology in a trial project with UK Power Networks and it officially launched another innovation centre in Washington D.C. last week. With a strategic investment from Adam Neumann, WeWork Co-Founder & CEO, the company has big plans. It is looking to scale up and will soon be announcing similar trials in other parts of the world.

Faraday Grid has taken a different approach to many other power system engineers, said Founder and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Williams. “Rather than trying to iterate forward and add complexity to the electricity system as it is, we went back to square one and looked at what the energy system of the future would need to look like. What we’re able to do is bring existing technology principles from other sectors and combine these with our new technology in the energy space. The devices within the Faraday Grid coordinate and collaborate using existing infrastructure to create autonomous decentralised control in a cost-effective way. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

The system can be explained in three parts. First the Faraday Grid itself, a network design with inbuilt inertia so it is less reliant on external control. Second the Faraday Exchanger, comprising hardware, software and firmware. It is able to control the power flow through the device’s electromagnetic core using its on board control system. When multiple Faraday Exchangers are deployed within a system, they work together to form a Faraday Grid. Embedded within the Faraday Grid is the third layer: the Emergent Transactional platform which is pure software.  

According to Williams, the Faraday Exchanger is completely scaleable with a core made from steel and copper, with no requirement for scarce or difficult to dispose of materials that may become a sticking point for the battery industry.

Like any disruptive technology the challenge will be how to commercialise it within existing regulatory frameworks. There are no technology regulatory barriers, but rather ongoing discussions at the regulatory level on how it will best fit within the system to deliver value to all stakeholders, Williams said. The system will be cost-neutral to a distribution system operator as it can replace transformers and other equipment such as tap changers, STATCOMS, harmonic filters and capacitor banks according to their existing maintenance schedule. Even bigger financial gains could be made for balancing services, and the benefit of enabling more distributed energy resources onto the system, but the method of revenue allocation for these services may need to be redesigned.

Accounting and performance management will become easier to track thanks to the embedded ledger in the technology, Williams said.

“It’s almost like trying to understand what the internet was going to be 20 years ago.”

Matthew Williams demonstrates the Faraday Exchanger at the launch in Washington, D.C.