What is being called a ground-breaking project – the Constellation project – by UK Power Networks, with ABB as its partner, is intended to 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 %. It is to be achieved by a combination of innovative digital substation protection and control solutions from ABB and 5G technologies.
Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) including UK Power Networks, have powerful centralised systems that give them overall control over the grid. The Constellation project will set out to create intelligent substations at local level, capable of analysing 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). This multi-vendor project is intended to introduce first-of-its-kind intelligence into existing distribution substations.
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 is said to have the potential to unlock 1.4 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 should contribute savings worth £348 million.
The project will further support the digitalisation of the protection algorithms that are embedded in intelligent electronic devices (IEDs). This approach has the potential to create the next generation of protection and control concepts that are based on software instead of hardware platforms.