A reliable, affordable and dependable flow of electricity is vital to power society in the 21st Century.
Electricity impacts every facet of our daily lives, heating our homes, powering our businesses, monitoring our health and keeping people connected with each other through mobile devices.
But energy flow is now very much a two-way process. Low carbon technologies generated by solar panels and wind farms are feeding into national power networks bringing new challenges to be overcome.
“But as low-carbon technologies have come along, all that has changed," explains Professor Phil Taylor, Director of the Newcastle University Institute for Sustainability.
“Distributed generation such as wind farms right down to heat pumps and solar panels means power is now flowing in both directions and in a relatively unpredictable way.
“We need to find a way of managing that power in real time, so that the low-carbon transition can be achieved at reasonable cost and without degrading power system reliability.
“That’s why a Smart Grid system is so important. We need to match supply to demand in real time and within network constraints, and that means making the grid more intelligent.
“This intelligence allows demand response, the involvement of customers, and energy storage to be integrated into existing networks.”
The Newcastle University Institute for Sustainability was established to bring together all the sustainability-focused research at Newcastle University.
The Smart Grid project has brought together academics from a range of disciplines as well as industry partners such as Northern Powergrid and British Gas.
“It is critical to carry out testing, technology improvements, consumer education, development of standards and regulations, and information sharing between projects to ensure that the benefits we envision from the Smart Grid become a reality," says Professor Taylor.
Energy experts at Newcastle University are heading the UK’s largest Smart Grid project to look at how new and renewable sources of power can managed at a reasonable cost without making power systems less reliable.
Smart Grid research being is developing a £2m test bed which could pave the way for the future of energy storage.
Professor Taylor and his team of academics and students will work from the university’s new Urban Sciences Building alongside Newcastle University specialists covering the whole spectrum of sustainable urban development.
The new grid scale storage demonstrator will be the first of its kind in the UK and will be integrated with a full scale Smart Grid on the Science Central site.
The real world setting will be crucial in allowing Newcastle University and its partners in industry and academia to thoroughly test power networks for their reliability and sustainability.
“In the past, electrical networks were operated in a passive manner – electricity flowing from high voltage networks down towards the customer at low voltages,” said Prof Taylor, recognised as an international authority on renewable energy.
“The Smart Grid, with energy storage at its core, represents an unprecedented opportunity to cost effectively decarbonise the electricity system while also maintaining security of supply.
"However, to realise the Smart Grid we need to match supply to demand in real time and within network constraints.
"Newcastle University’s expertise in power systems, power electronics, renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure and our close links with key industry partners means we are well-placed to take a leading role in this important and exciting research project.”
published on: 4 December 2014