New electrical measurements for the grid: New sensor technologies to support energy trading and security of supply
Integrating power from renewable energy sources into existing distribution grids will become an essential requirement for reducing CO2 emissions. However, the flow of electricity from nonconventional sources can cause harmonics or surges of power, leading to outages and failures. One way to address this problem is to introduce smarter grids that use digital control technologies to monitor electricity use in real time, making automatic changes to reduce energy wastage, and allowing networks to operate at higher capacities. Accurate and traceable measurements will be needed but many of the existing measurement instrument types are approaching end of life and are not designed to be effective in distributed networks, where power sometimes flows in two directions.
This project examined emerging measurement technologies potentially suited to monitoring the state of grids, from the high-voltage transmission grid to the medium and lowvoltages of the distribution grid.
- Developed a current sensing device for calibrating high and medium voltage transformers, offering a 100-fold improvement in shielding from environmental interference.
- Developed optical current and voltage sensors that show potential for fault detection in networks over larger distances than conventional instruments.
- Produced two Good Practice Guides on calibrating and installing non-conventional sensors.
Following the project, the European measurement institutes PTB, METAS and VSL initiated novel calibration services for non-conventional sensors.
The University of Strathclyde, in Scotland, further developed the optical sensors that were subsequently validated at the Power Network Demonstration Centre (PNDC) in Cumbernauld, also in Scotland. Six devices were installed for testing on medium voltage networks as part of an electrical distribution grid.
Synaptec, a company that makes high-performance instrumentation for network operators, took on the commercialisation of these sensors, working closely with energy suppliers Statnett in Norway and SSE in the UK.
A follow-on project FutureGrid II is continuing to develop calibration methods and the measurement infrastructure for real-time control and monitoring of power grids. This is required to help ensure stability in the challenging electricity supply operating conditions likely to be present in increasingly complex grid systems.