National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) recently announced it will be able to operate a zero carbon electricity system in Britain by 2025. I was excited to hear this news, and while as a company NGESO is technology neutral, I know that solar providers can play an important role in meeting the system needs and can contribute to the zero carbon future.
As Project Lead at NGESO on the Power Potential innovation project, I have decided to discuss the revenue opportunities for small generators like solar in providing reactive power. The Power Potential project – a joint initiative with NGESO and UK Power Networks – is looking to answer the question of how we can absorb large quantities of energy from existing distributed generation like solar farms onto the energy network, and deliver the decarbonisation of energy.
MWs and MVrs (reactive power) are important to maintaining voltage levels on the transmission system and helping keep the lights on. Reactive power does not travel well and is best produced and consumed locally. All transmission connected plants are obliged to provide reactive power. These services all paid for when we utilise them. However, with the changes in generation from transmission to distribution, NGESO are keen to widen the supply base for reactive power.
From experience with transmission connected plants, we already know that invertor based technologies like wind generation and batteries can provide voltage control very easily. Solar is using similar technology, which means we can utilise this technology more to provide voltage control too.
A common query from the Power Potential project’s trial participants is whether reactive power products can be provided with other services at the same time. Where possible, we encourage participants to deliver both the reactive and active power services. The reactive power can be provided with a balancing service, if the existing balancing service is not compromised. Recent changes to the technical requirements on generation connecting to the distribution network mean that from April 2019, many new smaller power stations are required to be designed and built to be able to provide reactive services.
Opportunities for revenue from system services, particularly reactive power, are huge and the Power Potential project trials (which will begin in summer 2019) are excellent opportunities for solar power generators to understand how the future reactive market could work and where further revenue opportunities will be.
About the author
National Grid Innovation Manager Dr. Biljana Stojkovska is an esteemed figure in the energy revolution with one of the most transformational projects that the energy industry has seen. The project is called Power Potential and Dr. Stojkovska is leading a multidisciplinary team that will be pioneering a whole system approach to connect additional renewable energy and storage technology in a new regional power market trial. This trial is expected to improve interaction between National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO), regional electricity distributors and renewable energy generators connected to the distribution system to create a cost effective new revenue stream and give greater robustness to the power system. This project is looking at how using previously unexploited power can benefit the energy industry and in turn all electricity consumers.
Addressing parity in the workplace, Dr Stojkovska is also a key member of the highly respected international council of large electric systems, CIGRE, and a passionate Chair of its Women’s Network advocating greater diversity in the engineering and energy sector. Dr Stojkovska is a chartered engineer in IET, the Fellow of the IET and a EUR ENG.
Prior joining National Grid Biljana completed PhD at Imperial College London.
This blog was produced as part of the Solar Commission, a UKERC funded project, which aims to stimulate new thinking and encourage collaboration between academics, industry and system operators on the role of solar in the UK energy system and Industrial Strategy.
 Thin film photovoltaic technologies require less energy to make than silicon based photovoltaic technologies – see figure 11 of UNEP (2016) Green Energy Choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production. Report of the International Resource Panel. E. G. Hertwich, J. Aloisi de Larderel, A. Arvesen, P. Bayer, J. Bergesen, E. Bouman, T. Gibon, G. Heath, C. Peña, P. Purohit, A. Ramirez, S. Suh, (eds.).
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