Utility Week

UTILITY Week 16 05 14

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UtILIty WEEK | 16th - 22nd May 2014 | 21 Operations & Assets Then the 12 aluminium electrical overhead wires and a single earthwire will be pulled into their final posi- tions. The 400V Beauly-Denny link will replace an existing 132kV overhead line and is due for completion next year. If you have an asset or project you would like to see featured in this slot, please email: paul.newton@fav-house.com Pipe up Alan Thomson T here's a quiet revolution happening in the UK energy sector and it's about to go mainstream. Not only is energy generation beginning to take place nearer to where it's needed – within communities – but the technology that manages how that energy is stored, used and sold back to the grid is close to reaching matu- rity. The era of microgrids is upon us. In part, microgrids are being driven by government policy, but interest in them is also being fuelled by the resilience they offer in the face of extreme weather events, as well as energy costs. A microgrid brings together generation, storage, and demand management, and creates a coherent system that can operate independently from the national grid. That it combines all three aspects is crucial, because a microgrid is more than just a bank of PV panels or a wind turbine. It must also feature a control system to manage excess electricity safely – such as by channel- ling it to the main grid – and some storage capacity, typi- cally batteries. Microgrids can power a university or business campus, an airport or a home. They can be designed to distribute some of their energy produc- tion as direct current, which is more efficient and results in less energy loss over short dis- tances. They can also more readily support the creation of smart energy systems, which rely on an ecosystem of components and processes, from smart meters in the home to controllers that manage demand loads. Microgrids are up and running in many different places, although the way in which they operate is differ- ent from place to place. Plug-and-play microgrid systems don't yet exist at any scale, so a degree of system design needs to take place to make sure that the systems are robust. Although energy produced is currently more expen- sive than, say, a gas power plant, it is more easily trans- ferable and lower carbon. For that reason, costs should be measured against nuclear energy or sustainable or renewable sources, such as wind. We are living in a power-hungry world facing ever- rising energy costs, demand, scarcity and disruption. This will drive awareness of energy use, production and energy conservation at the most local level, driving interest in alternate energy sources. For this reason, the problems for which microgrids provide solutions almost guarantee their adoption and implementation. Alan Thomson, director of energy business UKMEA, Arup "A microgrid is more than just a bank of PV panels or a wind turbine – it is a coherent, independent system" Interest in microgrids is also being fuelled by the resilience they offer to extreme weather

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