Grid software solution could more than double network capacity for renewables with no new infrastructure


A software system designed to free up electric grid capacity in a network in New York State proved so successful it was able to accommodate almost six times more solar generation capacity than planners of the trial had anticipated.

Scottish company Smarter Grid Solutions was tasked by Spanish-owned electric utility Avangrid with accommodating an extra 2.6 MW of solar generation capacity into the latter's network in Spencerport after three 5 MW solar farms applied for grid permits.

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The energy software company's Flexible Interconnect Capacity Solution (FICS), which has been successfully deployed on U.K. grids, ended up being able to accommodate all 15 MW of extra solar capacity which would otherwise have been unable to be hosted on the distribution system.

And with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) having predicted the FICS software could have the potential to treble the capacity of grid networks without any need for costly infrastructure investment, Smarter Grid Solutions is hoping the success achieved by its distributed-energy resource management system (DERMS) in the U.K. can be rolled out worldwide.

Graham Ault, of Smarter Grid Solutions, explained how the real-time electricity flow management system is already helping to integrate more than 400 MW of renewable energy generation capacity into grids which would otherwise have been deemed as having no free capacity.

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“The FICS solution works in the same way as traffic lights and speed controls on public roads,” said Ault. “You can avoid building lots more roads and still achieve the maximum throughput of vehicles if you regulate the flow of traffic with smarter approaches like dynamic use of extra lanes, dynamic speed limits and traffic lights. That’s how the saving in grid infrastructure investment works – making the most out of existing infrastructure by monitoring traffic flows and deciding when to apply the different controls.

“The SGS software monitors the flow of power in the grid and compares that to grid capacity – like monitoring flowing and standing [or] jammed vehicles on roads – the sources of … problems. For the grid that’s the solar generators that are exporting at high power; on roads that’s … side roads, lanes, etc. [FICS] then [issues] signals to make everything flow better. For FICS, that takes the form of an instruction to a PV site to regulate the export of power upwards or downwards.

“Achieving a solution that achieves that on a second by second basis, 365 days a year is quite complex but our system now manages over 400 MW of renewable generation for grid operators with excellent results.”

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