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Project partners announced for UK’s first digital substation

ABB, GE Grid Solutions, Synaptec and University of Manchester will work with SP Energy Networks on Future Intelligent Transmission NEtwork SubStation

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The location of the substation is of special interest because wind can be incorporated into the grid
The location of the substation is of special interest because wind can be incorporated into the grid

SP Energy Networks, the UK-based transmission and distribution network operator, has chosen ABB to support the delivery and commissioning of the UK’s first digital electricity substation.


SP Energy Networks was awarded £8.3m in funding for Future Intelligent Transmission NEtwork SubStation (FITNESS) from the UK Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) in 2015. The Swiss power and automation group will work on the project in partnership with GE Grid Solutions, Synaptec and the University of Manchester. The project will test the interoperability of the various partners’ technologies.


A digital substation is a key enabler of a smarter grid and the aim is to create a design for a substation that will reduce the costs associated with new and replacement substations in the future as well as reducing the environmental impact and land requirements. SP Energy Networks said it is expecting an overall saving in substation costs when digital technology is adopted as the UK norm, as well as a 15 per cent footprint reduction.


The project will focus on two bays at the existing Wishaw substation in Scotland. Traditional copper connections that use analogue signals will be replaced by fibre optic cables and an intelligent electronic device (IED) with integrated information and communication technology put in place. The integrated digital protection and control systems will improve system visibility, diagnostics and operation.


“This project will demonstrate how digitised communications within a substation can increase controllability, facilitate the integration of intermittent renewables and improve safety by replacing copper cabling with fiber optics,” said Claudio Facchin, president of ABB’s Power Grids division, adding that a key element of its future strategy is to focus on enabling the automation of the grid in line with its Internet of Things, Services and People approach. “To help utilities improve reliability and ensure safe and clean energy supply to consumers.”


ABB believes the geographical location of the substation is also of special interest because large quantities of wind could be integrated into the grid.


SP Energy Networks has also secured funding by Ofgem for a second project. Angle DC aims to demonstrate an innovative network reinforcement technique by converting an existing AC (alternating current) network on Anglesey in Wales to DC (direct current) operation. If successful, it will enable additional power from renewable energy to be exported from Anglesey on the existing distribution system. There is also potential for this technology to be used by electricity distribution companies across the country to create additional network capacity and help manage network performance.


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