Orkney network deploys smart grid

The power distribution network on Orkney is the first to deploy smart-grid technology from Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS).

The technology will allow an increased amount of renewable-energy generation to be connected.

The Orkney ‘smart grid’ is based on the principle that capacity exists in real time on the power distribution grid as a result of variation in demand for electricity and diversity in the output of grid-connected generators.

It is claimed that this technology will permit greater numbers of renewable generators to be connected to the existing electricity network in a cheaper and faster way than traditional means, by allowing generators to access power network capacity not normally available under conventional network planning requirements.

The Orkney smart grid took five years to commercially deploy, beginning with the research and development of the technology by SSE in collaboration with Strathclyde University.

SGS was spun out from Strathclyde University in 2008 to commercialise the technology and to offer it to constrained grid locations in the UK.

The commercial deployment of the smart grid on the Orkney network coincides with the UK government’s ‘Smarter Grids: The Opportunity’ proposal, which makes the case for developing smart grids in the UK.

As part of this announcement, energy and climate-change minister Lord Hunt said: ‘Smart grids will help manage the massive shift to low-carbon electricity such as wind, nuclear and clean fossil fuels. Globally, the business of developing smart grids has been estimated at £27bn over the next five years and the UK has the know-how to be part of that.’

Commenting on the deployment of the smart-grid technology on Orkney, Colin Hood, chief operating officer at SSE, said: ‘Smart-grid technology has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of the electricity distribution and transmission network in the UK. This deployment provides a blueprint for how smart grids can be used to connect high penetrations of renewable generation in a cost-effective way and resolve grid congestion as a result.

‘The connection of similar levels of renewable generation on Orkney by the conventional means of network reinforcement would have cost around £30m. The total cost of developing and delivering this innovative solution has been substantially less than this and taken far less time.’

According to Alan Gooding, managing director of SGS, technology like that from SGS will help the UK to meet its 2020 renewable-energy targets.

‘We have ambitious plans for growth building on our unique experience of having deployed, in a commercial way, a key component of the smart grid,’ he said. ‘We are delighted to be at the forefront of this new and rapidly growing market.’