SGS set to boost the efficiency of London’s power grid

Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS) has received a £2.9m contract to boost the efficiency of London’s power grid and to help it to better integrate renewable energy generation.

The company’s system will be used in the Low Carbon London project, which itself is one of four schemes that regulator Ofgem is funding as part of its £64m Low Carbon Networks Fund, which it says will be required for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

SGS, which was spun out of Strathclyde University three years ago, deployed its first smart-grid system in 2009 on the Orkney Isles to facilitate the connection of new wind-farm developments to a grid previously considered full to capacity.

According to SGS, the Orkney smart grid has enabled more than 15MW of new generating capacity to be connected to the network without major physical investment, saving an estimated £30m of capital expenditure, which would otherwise have been required to reinforce the network.

’We’re taking the same sort of techniques that we developed and have already demonstrated in more rural networks and applying those principles to more densely packed, congested urban networks — looking at how those things can be translated effectively,’ said Alan Gooding, SGS’ managing director.

The company’s technology, called SGcore, is referred to as an active network management system that automatically responds to rapidly changing demands on a power grid in real time.

It stems from the principle that integrating more renewable generation than conventional planning standards allow can lead to bottlenecks potentially causing network cables and transformers to heat up and fail.

Over the next 18 months, the company will install five of its SGcore platforms, which will manage power in London and hopefully run until mid-2014 as part of the Low Carbon London pilot.

As well as dealing with the added network congestion of such a large city, the company will have to take into account new challenges such as the uptake of electric vehicles and charging points that will impose large demands on power grids.

Dr Bob Currie, technical director at SGS, said: ‘SGcore provides a new way of managing the grid in real time that can be used to overcome some of the barriers facing low-carbon technology deployment. We have developed applications to enable more renewable generators and other low-carbon technologies, such as energy storage and electric vehicles, to connect within the constraints of existing electricity networks.’ 

Another arm of Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund, the so-called ‘Customer-led Network Revolution’ focuses on the nationwide roll-out of smart meters, due to begin next year.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is gathering experts for a conference in London today to discuss what the UK will need to do to prepare for this. The IET is concerned that new meters will only deliver substantial benefits if planned as part of an overall smart grid.