UK Spotlight: Dynamism of distributed generation requires flexible, robust and long-term model
Utilities and cities around the world rely on Silver Spring’s critical infrastructure platform to connect their intelligent devices. To date, says Rachel Eyres, Silver Spring’s standards-based networking platform has connected an array of smart grid and smart city applications to provide reliable connectivity for over 20 million devices on five continents.
In the process, Silver Spring has solved one of the market’s toughest engineering challenges – building and operating massive scale machine-to-machine networks that securely connect these millions of devices in varying climate conditions and topographically diverse environments.
In the UK, Silver Spring was selected for a project by UK Power Networks, as part of regulator Ofgem’s Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF) innovation project Flexible Plug and Play (FPP).
The FPP project has demonstrated how, through the integration of innovative technological and commercial solutions, a cost effective connection of Distributed Generation (DG) to constrained parts of the distribution network can be achieved. The FPP project has been delivered on-schedule and was finalised in December 2014, with Silver Spring successfully deploying a network across a vast, rural area of 700km2 between Peterborough and the towns of March and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.
By deploying a standards-based RF network relay interface, Silver Spring helped UK Power Networks integrate distributed generation in a cost-effective manner. Faced with rising demand for distributed generation connections, namely from large solar and wind plants within its East of England service territory, Silver Spring helped UK Power Networks implement an innovative approach that would offer better real-time control of its power grid and could enable additional generation to connect without the need for expensive upgrades.
UK Power Networks’ aim in selecting a communications partner like Silver Spring was to find an effective, long-term approach that could be used for the generation of connections to come forward in the future.
The Innovation: Communications infrastructure ensures grid reliability across a rural service territory
The £9.7million (€13.3 million) FPP project is one part of Ofgem’s ongoing commitment to making Britain’s electricity grid smarter. This 700km2 area was selected for the project given the large increase of renewable generation connection requests and its favourable characteristics for distributed generation.
In order to provide more cost-effective connections, UK Power Networks was interested in maximizing the existing electricity network capacity through smart technologies. UK Power Networks selected Silver Spring Networks as a communications partner for the FPP trial, along with Cable&Wireless Worldwide (now Vodafone) and Fundamentals. The project leveraged Silver Spring’s IPv6-based smart grid communications network platform, software and services to deploy an internet-like, high-speed telecommunications platform to enable novel control and monitoring smart technologies.
Features for the Silver Spring’s IPv6-based smart grid, along with those used for the UK Power Networks FPP project, include:
- Multi-hop networking to extend the reach of a critical infrastructure network
- Easy installation on existing assets with standards-based network interfaces
- Interoperability with smart grid applications, such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), demand response (DR), outage/restoration management, distribution automation (DA), and smart street lights.
- Highly flexible deployment options
At the core of the FPP project, a joint solution from Silver Spring and an additional UK Power Networks FPP partner, Smarter Grid Solutions, helped connect an array of distribution equipment across a deployment of intermittent wind and solar resources in the FPP trial area, enabling UK Power Networks to proactively manage renewable energy sources and grid devices. Smarter Grid Solutions’ Active Network Management technology monitors the electricity grid using data provided by the Silver Spring IPv6, standards-based network. The system autonomously calculates the available capacity of the grid and issues real-time control instructions to participating Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). For the first time in the industry, the deployment also successfully demonstrated the use of the IEC 61850 protocol across a radio mesh field area network.
Value Delivered: Connecting distributed sources complete
The FPP implementation and testing period began in January 2012 and was successfully completed in 2014. UK Power Networks reported in June 2014 that “there were as many connection requests made in the first half of 2014 as in the whole of 2013, and a higher acceptance rate is being achieved than typically seen with traditional DG connection offers.”
The FPP project has also continued to engage and recruit customers for its duration. According to UK Power Networks, as of November 21, 2014, “15 flexible connection offers have been accepted by customers to be connected on the distribution network. These fifteen accepted customers represent a total of 54.4MW across wind, PV and Anaerobic Digestion (AD) generators connecting at different voltage levels on the distribution network (33kV, 11kV and LV).” The project has also delivered significant connection cost savings in excess of £20million to those customers.
The technical diversity of the connections enabled by partners including Silver Spring will continue to provide UK Power Networks’ teams with extensive experience and rich knowledge that is invaluable beyond the length of the project. UK Power Networks now has the option to leverage this existing platform to develop new tools for generators of renewables in the future, while also proving out a new model to other distributors to remain relevant and leverage a multi-application for various solutions in the future.
The author of this blog is Rachel Eyres, sales director, UK and Ireland for Silver Spring Networks