School of Engineering

Smart Grid

Smart Grid


The Smart Grid Lab and Energy Storage Test Bed are unique grid connected facilities that enable investigation of future energy systems at Newcastle Helix.

The Smart Grid Lab and Energy Storage Bed are funded through a combined £2m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Newcastle University and industrial partners Northern Powergrid and Siemens.

These key facilities are part of Newcastle’s £200m flagship project at Newcastle Helix, bringing together academia, the public sector, communities, business and industry to create a global centre for urban innovation and sustainability.

Newcastle Helix is founded through a partnership between Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council to develop an exemplar of a smart, sustainable, resilient city that links energy, transport and digital infrastructure in an urban context.

Located on the former Scottish & Newcastle Brewery industrial site in the heart of Newcastle, Newcastle Helix is the perfect environment for exploring digitally enabled urban sustainability, and for demonstrating innovation that can benefit the local region and beyond.

Photograph of the Smart Grid in association with Siemens

Smart Lab Grid Features

The focus of our Smart Grid Lab is the simulation of distribution networks under future scenarios.

An integral part of this system is a real-time network simulator (RTNS). This allows for detailed real-time simulation of networks using sophisticated models that can interact with the physical laboratory environment.

Full integration

The RTNS and the control systems platform are fully integrated with the LV (low voltage) network of the laboratory.

This flexible AC system can be fully controllable in terms of amplitude, frequency, harmonic content, and independent control of phase angle.

This reconfigurable LV network also features flexible line impedances, which can enable evaluation of networks with different X/R ratios.


The smart grid system can be operated de-coupled from the grid or even with soft open points between different areas of the LV network using a flexible power converter.

This converter allows three-phase or single-phase real or reactive power to flow between different distribution networks.


Emulated PV and other distributed generators are also integrated into the laboratory system, as well as a set of controllable real and reactive load banks.

A reprogrammable energy storage emulator system with the ability to emulate several battery types and energy storage technologies, including Li-Ion and fuel cells, is fully integrated with the laboratory.

A commercial energy storage system which enables islanded capability of the laboratory is also available.

Real-time network simulation models

Real-time network simulation models can interact with the laboratory via a digital link to a three-phase, four quadrant inverter drive capable of delivering fully controllable voltage waveforms and events.

This arrangement provides the power-hardware-in-the-loop (PHIL) emulation platform, which facilitates the real experimental LV network to interact with the large-scale network model simulated by RTNS in real-time.

Fully instrumented

Fully instrumented, high-speed communications and instrumentation system utilising National Instruments and high speed, FPGA based systems.

Allows detailed investigation of the LV networks and the smart grid components.

Smart loads

Smart home appliances such as a smart washing machine and a smart load have also been installed.

In addition, there is an EV charge post which enables the charge cycles of real EVs to interact with the systems within the laboratory.

Smart grid control systems

A smart grid network management system, featuring a state estimator and optimised power fl ow (OPF) technology.

Additionally, energy management software system for micro-grids is integrated into the laboratory.

Energy management software for micro-grids is also integrated with the generation, load and storage devices.

Flexible low voltage grid

A four wire three-phase experimental low voltage AC and DC network, which enables investigation of AC and DC power systems.

This flexible system can be fully controllable in terms of amplitude, voltage, frequency, harmonic content and independent control of phase.

This reconfigurable LV network also features flexible line impedances, which enables evaluation of networks with different X/R ratios.

Energy Storage Test Bed

This grid-connected facility houses a variety of electrical energy storage (EES) technologies. From fast-response systems, e.g Supercapacitors, to slower but more energy dense technologies, e.g. NaNiCl2 and Redox Flow batteries, to support a plethora of grid services and case studies.

Energy storage is a potential game changer for the UK.

The country is expected to be a global leader in energy storage, which is projected to provide £10 billion in benefits by 2020 and over £120 billion by 2050.

It provides many services to the grid to make the energy network more efficient, secure and lower in carbon emissions.

Moreover, due to technology advances and economies of scale the cost of large-scale and small-scale energy storage is predicted to plummet in the next 10 years.

There are a range of benefits that energy storage technologies can offer to increasing energy efficiency and stabilising grid infrastructure including:

  • balancing supply with demand
  • increasing use of renewable energy generation to decarbonise the grid
  • managing imbalances on the grid
  • hedging against fluctuating energy demand and availability

What the Energy Storage Test Bed offers

The facility can also interface with any other EES technology across a wide range of technical specifications, or even emulate technologies through dedicated battery emulators. In addition to the actual grid, the facility can virtually connect to emulated networks using a sophisticated Real-Time Network Simulator.

Key specifications and capabilities of the Energy Storage Test Bed

Actual grid-connection through a bi-directional AC/DC power converter rated at 360kVA linked with the 400V Newcastle Helix electrical network and then on to Northern Powergrid’s distribution network, allowing for active and reactive power flows control and provision of ancillary services (e.g. frequency support, power quality improvement etc.).

Controllable DC bus carrying a number of DC/DC converters able to interface and fully control voltages and currents of up to 9 different EES systems and/or combinations of those with other energy systems (e.g. Photovoltaics (PVs), 3rd party power converter systems etc.).

DC/DC converters provide a range of voltages from 0V up to 700V at 90kW each. All power converters are built around a reprogrammable hardware platform and controlled by high-performance, real-time control units.

Software design is open, flexible and based on Matlab/Simulink® so users can easily create new applications from the ground up, and test the performance of newly designed control methodologies from the highest level (e.g. coordination and control of power flow between the batteries and the grid responding to network requirements) down to the lowest level (e.g. PWM control, battery management).

Programming extensions using popular human-machine interfaces e.g. web-browsers, or via application programming interfaces (API) integrated with scripting languages.

Multiple communication interfaces (e.g. CAN, Modbus, EtherCAT) allowing interfacing with any 3rd party system (e.g. Battery Management Systems (BMSs), Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technologies).

Real-Time Network Simulator that can be linked directly with the power converters greatly increasing research capabilities. Battery and PV emulators are also present at the facility allowing for a multitude of different scenarios to be tested.

Work with us

Here you can find out just a few of the ways we can work with you.

Operate and test your technology 

In an actual or emulated grid at a range of scales (i.e. domestic, commercial, local or regional capacities) before deployment into the field. Evaluate the impacts in real-time.

Carry out continuous, long-term tests 

On your battery system (e.g. round trip efficiency and degradation) for a specific real-world application or emulated charge/ discharge cycles. Facilitate a cost-benefit analysis for a proposed application.

Benchmark your system 

See how your system compares to other technologies. Identify interdependencies and complementarities of different technologies and propose optimised hybrid solutions.

Emulate an EES technology 

Through dedicated emulators, reduce your development costs.

Develop optimised control systems 

For both battery management and its connection with the grid.

Investigate V2G (vehicle to grid) technologies 

And the optimal utilisation of car battery systems.

Provision of expertise 

to assess possible alternative applications for second-life batteries.

Compare different EES technologies 

For a portfolio of grid services and investigate their impact in real time. Recommend which technology fits best a specific application and identify optimal solutions for maximising grid support and profits.

Facilitate development of regulations 

And standards for EES.

Investigate the challenges and opportunities

 Linking EES technologies with other systems e.g. renewables in an actual microgrid to create win-win solutions.

Contact us

If you are a business based in the UK, we may also be able to provide financial assistance to address your smart grid or energy storage needs through our ‘Innovation Fund’, especially if a proposed project will help encourage a longer term, mutually beneficial collaborative relationship.

Please do get in touch if you would like to learn more.

Martin Feeney
School of Engineering
Merz Court
+44 (0) 191 208 2931