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GE ‘World First’ smart substations for UK
- December 20, 2021
- William Payne
GE Digital is partnering with UK Power Networks on what it describes as “a world-first” smart substation project. The project, known as Constellation, is designed to optimise utilisation of the distribution network to facilitate the rise of renewable energy generation across the United Kingdom.
Constellation will see high performance computers installed in a series of substations, turning them into smart substations. To do this, Constellation will leverage advances in software engineering, machine learning, and system optimisation to make substations interoperable and secure. The project aims to release 1.4 GW of capacity (enough to power more than 700,000 homes) and save consumers more than £750 million (US$991 million) by 2050. It is also forecast to save more than 17.8m tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
An aspect of Constellation is the installation of GE Digital’s PhasorController in substations to enable the deployment of multiple smart applications. This will include functionality to optimise distribution network utilisation and contribute to net-zero targets while reducing the need for investment in additional infrastructure.
PhasorController distributes intelligence and control to the substation and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) connections to complement the existing central control, providing resilience and continuity of DER operation when communications links are unavailable. Currently, when a utility loses communications, it will fall back to safe power level which can lead to time periods when DER cannot operate. The solution uses data analytics and machine learning (ML) to incorporate data from periods when communication and the network is managed normally. This then “trains” Machine Learning models centrally and then distributes the models to the local renewable generation controls, so they are ready to go live if/when communications are lost.
The Constellation project will develop a model that can be used to help UK Power Networks with an anticipated increase in distributed energy resources and to move the country closer to its 2050 target for zero carbon electricity. Renewable power generation and DERs like electric vehicles and solar, connected to regional networks, are forecast to grow tremendously by 2050. By accessing data regarding the operations of various distributed grid devices, UK Power Networks will leverage analytics to match its changing energy demands with generation, and in turn, be able to expand its portfolio of renewable energy resources and energy flexibility capacity for grid reliability and improved customer services.
Ian Cameron, head of customer service and innovation at UK Power Networks said: “UK Power Networks is adapting to increasingly complex power flows by becoming smarter so we can safely release more capacity and enable more renewable energy to connect at lower cost – saving customers money and helping the environment at the same time. We already have smart control rooms and grid edge devices like smart electric vehicle chargers. Having smart substations in the middle pulling it all together is a logical next step.”
“Constellation marks a transformation in the way electricity networks operate,” said Jim Walsh, General Manager of GE Digital’s Grid Software business. “It will release reliable grid capacity in previously constrained situations. The combination of high-resolution data, advanced analytics, and flexible controls enable the network to operate reliably within its capability without over-conservative limits. It will also provide a foundation for additional smart solutions, further benefiting customers.”