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National Grid leverages SmartValve to unlock 1.5GW of electricity capacity

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National Grid SmartValves

National Grid Electricity Transmission has become the first grid owner in the world to deploy power flow technology on a transmission network at a large scale. 

The company has opted to use SmartValve technology, which it has currently installed at three of its substations in the North of England. The firm says that the installation of the new technology will enable 500MW of additional network capacity in each region, which should help with the rollout of more renewables. 

Installation of SmartValve technology is seen as key to achieving the UK’s goal of net zero by 2050, as it allows greater volumes of renewable power to be efficiently transferred to customers. 

How does SmartValve work? 

SmartValve was developed by US firm SmartWires, and works by intelligently routing electricity through the grid to prevent bottlenecks. Previously, the system was set up so that if one circuit reached capacity, the entire network would be unable to accept any more electricity. The new system should bypass that issue. 

National Grid says that SmartValve will be able to either push power off of overutilised lands or pull power onto those being underutilised, thus unlocking extra capacity for the whole grid. Of course, this will all be controlled by National Grid ESO, which could soon be taken out of National Grid’s ownership – listen to the first episode of Powered On to learn more about that

Where is SmartValve being installed? 

National Grid is installing SmartValve on five circuits at three of its substation sites in the North of England; Harker in Carlisle, Penwortham in Preston and Saltholme in Stockton-on-Tees near Middlesbrough. Those sites were identified as needing a solution to solve bottlenecks of renewable power, so the company turned to Smart Wires for a solution. 

Combined, the three sites will reduce congestion that limits renewable generation, unlocking 1.5GW of network capacity. That’s enough renewable energy to power one million homes, helping decarbonise the UK’s grid. 

Following these initial installations at the three sites, National Grid is looking to extend the capability at Harker and Penwortham in the Autumn. This could mean freeing up an additional 500MW of capacity, enough to power more than 300,000 homes.

David Wright, Chief Engineer for National Grid, commented, “Harnessing the potential of new innovative technologies to enhance benefits for customers and consumers is at the heart of everything we do. I’m proud to see NGET leading the way and pioneering transformational and innovative engineering to achieve wide-scale decarbonisation and overcome bottlenecks that are preventing maximum use of our networks. I’m delighted to see Smart Wires intelligent technology installed on National Grid’s transmission network, making it a world’s first for large scale use – this will be key to unlocking extra capacity safely and quickly.”

Julian Leslie, Head of Networks at National Grid Electricity System Operator, added, “Managing constraints on the transmission network is an important part of our work operating the electricity system so it’s great to see Smart Wires technology being utilised. Developments such as this, and the steps outlined in our five-point congestion management plan, will reduce the impact of constraints, allowing us to harness the full potential of renewable generation and lower costs for the end consumer – all helping towards our ambition of being able to operate the system at zero carbon by 2025.”

Peter Wells, Smart Wires CEO, concluded, “NGET has shown unparalleled global leadership in their whole-hearted embrace of innovative technology to enable rapid, affordable decarbonisation. With these projects, NGET has pioneered a new way to think about planning and operating the grid – leveraging flexible investments to deliver gigawatts of impact in incredibly short timeframes. Of the hundred utilities we work with around the globe, NGET is one of the most focused organisations when it comes to their commitment to deliver value for consumers. The team’s outstanding technical capability and collaborative approach was a critical enabler to the pace and scale of the impact these projects have achieved. Our vision at Smart Wires is a highly efficient grid that powers a cleaner planet, and we are so proud to stand alongside our NGET partners and celebrate this success.”

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