New devices trialled on London's electricity network have the potential to ease rollout of renewable heat and power while delivering cost savings, UKPN claims
Circuit-breakers designed to make it easier and cheaper to connect renewables and low carbon heating technologies to the grid have been installed on London's electricity network as part of a trial by UK Power Networks (UKPN), which claims the new devices have grabbed the title of "world's fastest".
Installed at an electricity substation in Tower Hamlets, East London, the 'Power Electronic Fault Limiting Circuit Breaker' device can detect and protect the electricity network from faults within four-thousandths of a second - 20 times faster than existing circuit breakers, according to UKPN.
The devices are part of a £6.2m project funded by Ofgem's Network Innovation Competition that is designed to detect faults up to 250 times faster than humans can blink.
Technologies that can manage fluctuations on the network are becoming increasingly important as more intermittent renewable energy generators are connected to grid so as to decarbonise the UK's power and heating supplies.
As such, the power network operator explained the new circuit breaker devices would enable wind, solar, and combined heat and power (CHP) units to be connected to the network at a lower cost, by reducing the need for investing in other more significant physical infrastructure upgrades.
At around a quarter of the size of existing circuit breakers, UKPN estimated the new devices could save its energy customers around £400m through to 2050 by helping to facilitate an additional 460MW of low carbon, distributed energy generation onto the network.
Moreover, it estimated that rolling out the new devices across the network could reduce London's CO2 emissions by around 3.8 billion kg through to 2050, the equivalent to the emissions generated by around 800,000 diesel or petrol powered vehicles in a single year.
"Through innovative technology, we are making it easier for a generation of environmentally-friendly, cost-efficient energy," said Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UKPN. "Lowering the cost of connecting smaller-scale energy generation like CHP is a key component in providing a low-carbon, secure and affordable future for London."
UKPN said trials of the circuit breakers would continue until 2021 in order to gather data on their performance in different configurations.
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