This racing engine manufacturer was struggling with grid constraints blocking the installation of vital new equipment.
Solving Grid Constraints
What are Grid Constraints?
Grid constraints are limitations placed on the national grid system, due to factors such as limited authorised transmission capacity, generation, transmission line outages, load variations coupled with insufficient resilience, market issues, environmental regulations or incorrect permissions.
Electricity is delivered to your site from the National Grid by one of the UK’s regional Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). They are responsible for managing and maintaining your connection and transmitting the electricity to you.
In order to maintain power to their whole network of users, they need to ensure that their equipment (cables, substations, transformers, etc) can meet all the demands that are placed on them. As an electricity user you therefore need to agree with your DNO what power you will use and what equipment you connect this usage will has a limit you are constrained by.
If you want to change that you will need approval. If the infrastructure local to you is close to its capacity, then it may put constraints on what you are able to connect to the electricity grid.
What is meant by grid constraints?
Grid constraints can come in several formats. These key types of constraints can prevent you from connecting electrical equipment on your site to the National Grid. The most common are:
- Insufficient Demand – If there is insufficient demand on the grid some generators will have to disconnect. The grid has to balance these loads and utilising a Battery Energy Storage System can help store power until there is a demand from the grid for more power.
- Authorised Capacity – Every electricity user has an authorised capacity. This is basically the amount of power that you are allowed to draw from the grid at any one time. It will form part of your agreement with your DNO. If you want to install a new load on your site – a large piece of equipment, or even lots of small pieces of equipment – you will need to consider whether the extra power demand will make you exceed your allowance. If so, you will need to get permission to increase it.
- Insufficient Resilience – It is also important to consider the potential fault current from your equipment. This is a spike in electrical current which flows back through the grid when your equipment fails. The DNO is responsible for ensuring that its equipment can survive a worst-case scenario of all equipment failing at once. They will therefore only permit connection of additional equipment if their cables and substations are large enough to support the additional fault current risk.
- Incorrect Permission – If you have on-site generation, such as solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, Combined Heat and Power (CHP), and wish to export some of the electricity back to the National Grid, you will also require permission from your DNO. This is because generating electricity creates fluctuations and variations in the power network and it must be able to manage these.
These are often referred to as Grid Contracts and can generate revenue for your business.
How can battery storage help grid constraints?
To increase your authorised capacity, it may be necessary to pay for an upgrade to the cables and substations that supply the electricity to your site. This can take years to achieve and be prohibitively expensive, costing you anywhere between £100,000/MW and £1.7 million/MW depending on your region.
A battery energy storage system can be installed on your site to act as a buffer between your equipment and the electrical grid. By using the battery to meet the maximum power demands of your site, you do not need as much power requirement from the grid. The battery system can recharge at a more leisurely rate, perhaps overnight or when maximum loads are not in use.
A classic example of this is rapid electric vehicle chargers. When in use, they can draw as much power as a reasonable sized industrial site. But they are not in constant, 24/7 use. Battery buffered EV charging can be used to power the chargers and then recharge from the grid more gradually once the vehicle is disconnected.
Likewise, with a battery system being used to isolate your site’s electrical equipment from the grid, it is possible to avoid introducing a large potential fault current to your connection.
How can Feasibility studies help overcome grid constraints
Modelling and simulation can be utilised to create a digital twin of your site and its energy flows. This can be used to run comprehensive and accurate scenarios at grid and site level to design an appropriate solution to any grid constraint. It also allows the feasibility of the project to be demonstrated to your DNO.
Simulation and modelling is being increasingly used by both academic institutes and major multinationals to assess complex systems, including energy infrastructure. When there are grid constraints this technology can be used to assess your project and find a workable, cost-effective solution. The model and design created from this technology can be used alongside your DNO application to get the project approved for physical implementation.
If your energy projects have been blocked due to Grid Constraints, contact us to see how we can help
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