Faraday Grid wins support for grid management technology – read New Power’s interview

Energy technology company Faraday Grid has been awarded funding from Innovate UK to support the development of its Faraday Exchanger technology.

Working with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the University of Edinburgh, the funding will be used to help develop a full-scale Faraday Exchanger demonstrator device with power capacity of 2-3 MVA (MW).

The Faraday Exchanger is a power-control device created to solve the fundamental technical challenges of voltage, frequency and power-factor control.

In January this year New Power Report spoke to Andrew Scobie, executive chair at Faraday Grid.

He said batteries are the wrong technology to manage network frequency. Although batteries have their place, he says trying to use them to solve frequency problem is “like using limousines for furniture removals”. Similarly with other assets added the system to provide inertia, manage power factors and quality, or manage voltage. The problem goes deeper than batteries, Scobie says. Transformers were not designed for fast-changing supply and demand. They do nothing to help maintain the quality of the supply, and cannot react when, in the balancing act of maintaining voltage and frequency, actions taken in one part of the system ripple across the whole.

Scobie says the electricity network should learn from the way central switch-based telephone networks have adapted to the domestic router-based internet. The answer is local management that acts to maintain frequency and voltage, and damps down variability locally so central actions are not needed and local “excursions” from stability are not propagated across the system. Faraday is raising £45 million of capital to take a new option into commercial operation. The Faraday Exchanger replaces traditional transformers with a sophisticated alternative that dynamically controls voltage and frequency. With direct control of those two parameters, some persistent bugbears of the current system – power factor, inertia, reactive power – can be managed out at source. Scobie says the technology will reduce costs, both directly, because electrical losses will fall, and indirectly, because it allows for more renewable energy.

Faraday wants to install exchangers to form an “autonomous, responsive, electrical meta-network, agnostic to generation and consumption” that the company refers to as a Faraday Grid.

The technology has support from the Power Network Demand Centre, Scobie says. UK Power Networks and Scottish Power Energy Networks are configuring the product for UK networks and carrying out simulations. In 12 months it should be deployed for testing in “behind the meter” microgrids. The project is outside the Network Innovation Competition. That is “not an easy process and very slow”, Scobie says.

In commercial deployment, Faraday, which has been spun out of control systems specialist Exigen, would provide the control system, but it expects to work with other companies to provide the hardware that replaces transformers. These large assets are straining to accommodate variable supply and demand. Scobie says Faraday Exchanges cost about the same as a conventional transformer in a like-for-like replacement. But because the units are distributed and work at source, rather than as a centrally-directed network, they offer protection against network issues such as cyberattack.

If proven over the next 12 months, the technology has the potential to shake up the network, Scobie says. He says two groups have to prepare for that. He wants transformer manufacturers to manufacture Faraday Exchange instead; and he says battery investors, already getting used to the idea that there are few stable revenue lines in the UK industry at the moment, will have to forget fast frequency response and focus their efforts elsewhere.

 First published in the January 2018 issue of New Power Report