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ENER-G CHP plays role in creating smarter electricity grid to meet future demand

Chris Marsland Technical Director of ENER-G Combined Power Ltd

ENER-G combined heat and power (CHP) technology is at the centre of a pioneering trial to create a smarter electricity grid - to deliver reliable low carbon power supply at the lowest possible cost.

The Salford-based CHP specialist and the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) are partners in the 'Respond' project - led by Electricity North West.

The £5.5m three-year demonstration project, beginning January 2015, is benefiting from £4.5m funding from energy regulator Ofgem. Other project partners are ABB, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Impact Research, Schneider Electric and United Utilities.

 'Respond' aims to deliver an intelligent approach to managing fault current - the instantaneous surge of energy that occurs under fault conditions. This is intended to help meet future low carbon electricity demand without the need to build costly new infrastructure. 

Using intelligent software in the form of an Active Response Fault Level Assessment Tool, the plan is to demonstrate that fault current can be managed at lower cost by using existing assets, such as CHP, together with new commercial techniques.

In this way it is hoped to accelerate the uptake of low carbon demand and renewable generation - avoiding the need to prematurely replace expensive switchgear and cables, while delivering savings to all distribution network customers.

It is predicted that the 'Respond' methods will release the same capacity as traditional reinforcement,  but up  to 18 times faster and at much lower cost - up to 80% cheaper - potentially saving the UK £2.3 billion by 2050.

The Respond 'Fault Level Assessment Tool' will calculate potential fault current in real time and take mitigating action, if necessary.

One of the mitigating techniques to be piloted with selected ENER-G CHP customers in the North West is a Fault Current Limiting service (FCL service). This would automatically cut CHP power exports to the grid if fault current levels were raised above a pre-set threshold. Customers would receive financial incentives from Distribution Network Operators in return for their contribution to smooth grid operation.

ENER-G's R&D test cell and engineering expertise will be used to assess adaptive protection technologies that would enable CHP systems to take evasive action in the event of excess fault current. These techniques could then be adapted for use by other distributed generators, such as wind and solar assets.

ENER-G and the CHPA will also work with Impact Research to conduct a survey to establish customer interest in the FCL service, and will share knowledge gained from the project with the industry.

The new fault level mitigation techniques would only operate in those rare occurrences when they are enabled and a fault occurs. Standard protection would operate for faults when the technique is disabled. Having this active response ability would enable 'Respond' to extend the useful life of switchgear, thereby avoiding the need for costly reinforcement - benefiting customers, stakeholders and the environment.

Steve Johnson, CEO of Electricity North West, said: "The 'Respond' trial will allow us to explore new technical and commercial solutions to get more from our existing network. This will ensure customers continue to get the power they need and give them the flexibility to connect renewable energy sources such as combined heat and power plants, without us having to invest in new expensive infrastructure. And by using these innovative techniques to intelligently manage fault current, customers could see lower bills."

Chris Marsland, Technical Director for ENER-G Combined Power Ltd, said: "We're proud to play a part in this groundbreaking trial, which could provide future low carbon power more competitively. It could increase further the financial returns of CHP by providing commercial and industrial users with an income stream from playing their part in reinforcing the network. 'Respond' has the power to accelerate the roll out of distributed generation from CHP and other low carbon and renewable sources."

CHPA Director Tim Rotheray said: "As the need for greater local network management grows, we see this as a new revenue opportunity for CHPA members to help ease local network issues. We look forward to working with our partners and all of our members to see how their existing CHP assets can provide local network management services at lower cost to alternative options."