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UK Power Networks Partners with GE Digital on Smart Substation Project to Drive Net Zero Outcomes

  • The New Constellation innovation project will enable more renewables to be integrated on to the electricity distribution network and save approximately 17.8m tons of CO2 emissions by 2050
  • Constellation provides a unique approach to distribution network management through a decentralized operation using data analytics and machine learning, reducing reliance on communications to and from the central control systems

GE Digital announced that it is partnering with its valued customer UK Power Networks on a world-first smart substation project. The project, known as Constellation, is designed to optimize the utilization of the distribution network to facilitate the rise of renewable energy generation across the United Kingdom.

Constellation is a world-first innovation project that will see powerful 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 optimization 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 by 2050. It is also forecast to save more than 17.8m tons of harmful greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

A key 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 optimize distribution network utilization and contribute to net-zero targets while reducing the need for investment in additional infrastructure.

Ian Cameron, head of the 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.”

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 a 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 are 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.

As the share of renewables in the electricity mix continues to grow, network operators are increasingly looking at ways to integrate them into the grid more efficiently. 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 the 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.

“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 enables 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.”

Source: GE Digital

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