New regional scheme seeks to boost central south England’s renewable energy potential

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AN INITIATIVE designed to unlock the potential of smaller, regionally-connected power resources is being developed on Great Britain’s south coast.

The scheme is a collaboration between National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), National Grid Electricity Transmission (ET) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

Through its Regional Development Programme, the ESO is working with National Grid ET and SSEN – the electricity distributor for south central England – in order to more efficiently manage the growing volume of distributed energy resources in the region, such as small and medium-sized wind and solar farms.

Yesterday it was announced that cheap solar and onshore wind can compete for Contracts for Difference.

Julian Leslie, National Grid ESO’s head of networks, commented on the scheme: “Regional development programmes like this are providing a great way to develop closer ways of working with other network organisations.

“Through ESO’s and National Grid ET’s work with SSEN, we’ll be able to connect greater volumes of zero carbon generation, maximising the efficiency and capacity of existing networks and ultimately reducing costs for consumers.

“It’s also another way we’re working with industry to help Great Britain on the path to net zero.”

Distributed energy resources are connected and provide power to regional power networks rather than to Great Britain’s main transmission system, improving the flexibility of the grid and its ability to draw on energy resources beyond the large centralised power stations.

The new south coast initiative will harness distributed energy resources’ potential still further, enabling them to play an important role should transmission network conditions become particularly challenging – for example around the time of a fault on the network.

By introducing a system called Active Network Management onto south coast regional energy networks, National Grid ESO, National Grid ET and SSEN are enabling distributed generators in the area to continue providing power to the grid during difficult system conditions, when previously they might have been restricted off in anticipation of a fault or to avoid overloading the system.

Active Network Management systems offer vast improvements against traditional ‘intertrip’ systems, which only enabled on or off settings for connected generators when faced with adverse network conditions.

Under Active Network Management control, multiple distributed energy resources on the south coast network can potentially continue to generate power within controllable limits, monitored and adjusted in real time to meet demand, and – importantly – reducing the need for generation to be completely curtailed.

The initiative will benefit a region which has already seen significant growth in distributed energy resources, encouraging new connections to SSEN’s network and making sure as much generation as possible can be maintained according to the system conditions.

Since renewable energy makes up a significant volume of today’s distributed energy resources connections, the latest regional development initiative also marks another step towards ESO’s ambition of being able to operate the electricity system carbon-free by 2025.

Stewart Reid, head of future networks at Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, added: “It is great to see Active Network Management being applied at scale in the south of England, and SSEN are proud to be working with ESO on this Regional Development Programme.

“The concept of Active Network Management enabled ‘smart-grids’ originated in Orkney, about as far as you can get from these latest installations and shows how the combination of renewables and smart network management techniques can help the UK meet its net zero goals.”