Northern Powergrid has announced details of an £83 million programme to prepare its regional economy for rapid growth of electric vehicles, domestic heat pumps and renewable power.
The Smart Grid Enablers programme, which includes involves overhauling a communications network that is the largest private telecoms network in its region, and replacing or installing equipment at its 8,000 substation and transformer control units, will run to 2023.
The company said it would result in the most radical change to its network since the 1970s. Upgrades will be carried out by 100 specialist engineers and the company is recruiting and training staff in the skills needed to install and operate more dynamic control systems, develop the smart solutions they will enable, and integrate these into routine operations.
The company said that:
- By understanding real loads on key equipment, it will be able to save money by only investing in upgrades where they are really needed.
- By understanding actual load on the system, it will be able to identify where it can connect more solar power and electric vehicles without costly upgrades.
- By being able to control voltage on local networks, it will be able to support increased numbers of solar panels and electric vehicles.
The programme will upgrade equipment dating from the 1950s to the 1990s and install new technology. It includes:
- Installing high-bandwidth digital communications links to over 860 major substations and 7,200 secondary substations replacing old analogue links.
- Replacing transformer monitoring control units in 750 major substations and the equipment that allows them to control voltage.
- Replacing or upgrading substation controllers in over 860 major substations.
- Installing monitoring equipment for the first time in 1,300 secondary substations and obtaining data from 2,000 existing sites.
- Creating new data warehouses to process data from substations and from domestic smart meters.