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.
What is a Smart Grid?What is a Smart Grid?
Smart grids have the potential to be a key enabler for countries worldwide to make the low carbon transition, but also to address the energy trilemma of security, affordability and sustainability.
A smart grid is part of an electricity power system which can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.
It uses real-time information on network operation and energy consumption, and generation to manage our future energy networks in a way that is more affordable, sustainable and secure. To achieve this, our smart energy networks of tomorrow will need to enable and integrate new low carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, renewable energy generation and heat pumps to be widely adopted.
Smart grids also have the potential to:
- Help increase environmental sustainability
- Reduce energy network outages and disruptions
- Improve operational efficiency of the UK's networks
- Help lower cost of energy storage, transmission and distribution
- Increase the resilience and security of energy networks
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.
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, 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 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.
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.
Dr Samuel Neill
Corporate Partnership Manager
+44 (0) 191 208 4814
Dr Yvonne Huebner
Inward Investment Manager
+44 (0)191 208 6855