New Thames Valley Vision project concludes

A flagship Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) innovation project – which trialled and monitored various smart technologies and interventions across the Thames Valley region – has now concluded, with its findings being heralded as ‘key to informing the transition’ of the UK’s distribution network operators (DNOs) to a distribution system operator (DSO) roles.

The six year, £30m New Thames Valley Vision (NTVV) project will improve the industry’s understanding of future electricity usage and help with the transition to a low carbon economy. Its key findings have been shared to more than 100 delegates from across the energy and academic industries at a dissemination event held at the IET in London recently.

As new technologies connect to the electricity network such as electric vehicles, heat pumps and solar panels, electricity use is set to become more volatile, which will require active management to maintain a reliable system. It will also consider how future demand and growth can be met without the need for network reinforcement and the use of smart technologies, such as Active Network Management.

The NTVV project explored a number of different innovative and new methods to achieve this, including electricity network monitoring, battery storage and thermal storage.

More than 300 low voltage (LV) substation monitors were installed, with supporting infrastructure, to capture real-time electricity data. This was the first scaled deployment of substation monitoring by a DNO whilst being integrated into a distribution management system. The captured data allowed for substation categorisations, aggregation and meaningful forecasting of future network loading.

25 street side battery storage units, Energy Storage and Management Units, were installed in Bracknell to support the LV network and to help the network operate safely – the first scaled deployment of such technology by a DNO on the LV feeder circuit away from a substation. The trials successfully demonstrated the ability to impact voltage and thermal constraints, as well as phase balancing and therefore proved the technology as an alternative solution to traditional reinforcement.

NTVV also trialled hot and cold thermal storage technology. This included the installation of 103 hot thermal units within domestic properties, which were used to reduce the peak export of electricity generated from solar panels on to the LV network by using it locally instead. When solar output was high the control units diverted excess electricity to hot water tanks, which helped customers store energy for later use, for example when showering. Trials showed on average 500W per household was prevented from spilling on to the grid at time of peak generation, which helped alleviate constraints.

The installation of three cold thermal storage systems, known as Ice Bears, at commercial premises provided cooled air as an alternative to the existing air conditioning equipment. These units successfully demonstrated the capability for shifting peak demand.

The NTVV project team used millions of data points captured on the low voltage electricity network in Bracknell to create 10 different customer categories. This categorisation can help DNOs to better predict and manage electricity flows on the network, which will result in cost savings for users.

Stewart Reid, Head of Asset Management and Innovation at SSEN, said:
“We used Thames Valley Vision as an opportunity to trial technologies and methods to help us make the transition to a smart network – which, as a concept, was in its infancy when we started the project in 2011. We identified the key areas needing addressed, such as monitoring and visibility on the network, and how you can improve forecasting and modelling to anticipate future demand. The project was used as an opportunity to test interventions, such as storage devices, low cost monitoring and a wider range of methods, which allows operating the network to be done in a much smarter way.

“We have shared the findings of the project with other DNOs so the whole industry can benefit from its findings. Following BEIS and Ofgem’s recent Call for Evidence on the transition from the traditional Distribution Network Operator model to a prominent Distributed System Operator role we believe the findings of NTVV will help and influence the next steps of this journey. It is our view, informed by the project’s findings, this transition will help meet the needs of a flexible and de-carbonised electricity system, whilst ensuring the network remains resilient and affordable.”

Partners in the NTVV project were: GE – Grid Solutions, DNV-Kema, Honeywell, EA Technology, Bracknell Forest Council, University of Reading and University of Oxford.