ABB technology enables UK grid to integrate more renewable energy


A combination of innovative digital substation protection and control solutions from ABB and 5G technologies will enable UK Power Networks to accept growing levels of renewable energy.

A ground-breaking project by UK Power Networks with ABB as partner will increase the amount of renewable energy connected to the grid at medium-voltage substations. It will also support the UK’s path to Net Zero by 2020, which includes increasing the country’s share of renewable energy to 80 percent.

Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) including UK Power Networks, have powerful centralized systems that give them overall control over the grid. The Constellation project will set out to create intelligent substations at local level, capable of analyzing millions of datapoints and automatically reconfiguring the network to safely enable higher volumes of electricity to flow.

Constellation has received funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC), and this multi-vendor project will introduce first-of-its-kind intelligence into existing distribution substations.

As a leader in grid automation, ABB’s role is to deliver a digital and software-oriented wide area protection system that uses the 5G telecoms network for communication between substations. The system will be based on IEC 61850 standard and will integrate with other parts of the Constellation project.

The scheme will enable real-time monitoring and control of distributed energy resources (DER) such as wind and solar farms. With thousands of substations across Great Britain, UK Power Networks’ new approach has the potential to unlock 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of network capacity that will enable further integration of DER. This would achieve annual savings of 19 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and cost efficiencies of £750 million for the UK’s Distribution Network Operators. Of this, ABB’s technology will facilitate savings worth £348 million.

The project will further support the digitalization of the protection algorithms that are traditionally embedded in intelligent electronic devices (IEDs). This novel approach has the potential to create the next generation of protection and control concepts that are based on software instead of hardware platforms.

Ian Cameron, Head of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks, said: "With the UK government setting the ambitious target of achieving Net Zero by 2050, we are creating a platform that will enable us to deploy this smart solution throughout the country and enable more renewable energy to connect quickly and efficiently. The Constellation project will play a key role in ensuring the seamless integration of DERs into the network, releasing grid capacity and ultimately saving money for our customers."

Stephen Gibbs, ABB UK’s Product Marketing Director for Distribution Solutions said: "UK Power Networks’ Constellation project is the latest example of how ABB is developing smart distribution solutions to provide customers with greater reliability and safety. It further supports the energy transition through effective grid integration of distributed renewable energy."

To learn more about smart grid protection and control visit: go.abb/digitalsubstations