UKPN trials new tech to drive a greener electricity grid

The circuit breakers help to easily add low carbon technologies like wind, solar and combined heat and power to the grid at lower cost

New technology that is expected to make it “easier and cheaper” for low carbon energy sources to be connected to the grid is being trialled by UK Power Networks (UKPN).

The distribution network operator has installed what it claims is the “world’s first and fastest” Power Electronic Fault Limiting Circuit Breaker device at a substation in Tower Hamlets.

It says the technology can detect and protect the electricity network from faults in just four-thousandth of a second – 20 times faster than any existing circuit breakers.

It also helps to easily add low carbon technologies like wind, solar and combined heat and power (CHP) to the grid at lower cost by reducing the need for significant physical infrastructure upgrades.

UKPN estimates the circuit breakers could save energy customers around £400 million, driven by an additional 460MW of distributed generation the device would help connect to the network.

They could also reduce London’s carbon emissions equivalent to those generated by 800,000 diesel or petrol vehicles every year.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said the project showed the business is driving change in the industry: “Through innovative technology, we are making it easier for a generation of environmentally-friendly, cost-efficient energy. Lowering the cost of connecting smaller-scale energy generation like CHP is a key component in providing a low carbon, secure and affordable future for London.”

The trial, which will continue until 2021, is part of a £6.2 million project funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition.

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