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How Renewable Energy can Impact Delicate Manufacturing Processes

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One important way that many UK manufacturers offset some of the rising cost of their energy bills is through the use of a Climate Change Agreement (CCA). 53 different trade bodies and associations currently hold CCAs, spanning a large number of manufacturing sectors as well as other energy-intensive industries, such as agriculture.

CCAs are vital for securing a significant discount on the Climate Change Levy that is charged on all the power that your business uses (up to 92% on electricity, and 81% for gas). To remain part of their sector’s CCA, a manufacturer has to be able to show continued sustainability improvement.

Renewable energy, whether sourced through a green procurement agreement or power purchase agreement or through on-site generation, is one obvious solution that can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your energy use. However, both grid-scale and distributed renewable generation can present new power resilience problems that could impact on your site’s productivity and profitability if not accounted for.

Grid Disruption

While it may seem counter-intuitive, as we add more renewable energy generation to the UK’s energy mix, the risk of power disruption actually increases, at least in the short-term. While renewable energy will ultimately form the cornerstone of our energy generation mix, it will need significant investment in storage and other balancing mechanisms to achieve. In the meantime, major power disruption, even blackouts, are growing more likely.

Renewable energy is inherently inflexible: we cannot turn the sun or wind, or tidal energy for that matter, up or down as required. Instead, most renewable generation assets generate at varying rates, dictated by weather conditions. Frequently, this changing pattern of generation doesn’t match up with changing national demand, leaving National Grid with a difficult balancing act.

Localised Disruption

While much of the renewable capacity coming online is major, grid-scale wind and solar farms, distributed generation is also growing rapidly. Many manufacturers have already invested in technologies such as rooftop solar or an onshore wind turbine to bolster their sustainability and reduce their energy costs.

However, this rapid growth presents an additional issue when it comes to power resilience. Particularly for manufacturers located where their distribution network may already be somewhat constrained, such as an out-of-town manufacturing park, additional localised generation means more pressure on an already stressed distribution network. Designed in most cases to simply deliver power to end users, distribution infrastructure can be overwhelmed when it finds itself managing the significant incoming and outgoing power flows caused by localised generation. Key infrastructure such as transformers risk being overwhelmed at worst, but even in less extreme cases, sags and dips in voltage can be caused that risk disrupting sensitive manufacturing equipment.

While a minor voltage disruption, often extremely fleeting, may seem a relatively minor threat, it can quickly add up to significant disruption for manufacturers. As manufacturing becomes increasingly automated, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), vital to unlocking this greater productivity, can become a point of weakness in terms of power disruption. Even a momentary disruption can cause PLCs to trip and reset, quickly turning a brief change in voltage to a prolonged disruption.

Power resilience technology is vital when it comes to manufacturers protecting their productivity as the UK continues a period of transition from centralised, fossil fuel generation to distributed, renewable generation. Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) can insulate your site from any wider disruption, providing instantaneous UPS capabilities to protect your site as well as helping to manage your own on-site power generation. Voltage regulation can also be used to prevent the minor changes in voltage that can result in significant disruption for sensitive manufacturing equipment, as well as unlocking significant energy efficiency improvements and savings.

To find out more about Powerstar’s power resilience technologies, contact our team here

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