Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) latest Innovation Showcase offered the firm’s innovation team a chance to provide updates and insight into its recent work before the turn of the year. Here, innovation engineer Ryan Huxtable runs though the highlights.

WPD’s latest Innovation Showcase was an opportunity for members of our innovation team to share details and progress on some of WPD’s latest, industry-leading projects with other industry stakeholders.

This year, the event was held over five days, with each day focusing on a different theme linked to a priority area in WPD’s wide ranging innovation work programme. The themes covered were; low carbon heat; communities and vulnerable customers; planning; decarbonisation and network reliability.

All of these areas are central to WPD’s innovation programme and underpin its commitment to power a low carbon future and create a greener, fairer energy system. Across each priority area, our innovation team is working on the solutions that will enable a greener and smarter energy system while upholding the same high standards of service for our customers.

We are taking a collaborative approach to ensure that, as we work towards the government’s 2050 net zero target and our own net zero target of 2028, our network is as decarbonised and effective as possible.

Below are some of the projects that were detailed at the event, providing a glimpse into WPD’s extensive innovation work.

Project Pre-Fix

Project Pre-Fix will be delivered by WPD with support from monitoring technology provider Nortech and will develop new architecture to host captured information on a Common Disturbance Information Platform (C-DIP).

The C-Dip aims to promote interoperability between different equipment suppliers for pre-fault capable equipment. By running analytics, high voltage pre-fault activity will be identified including the location and potential timeframe of the disturbance. This would enable a reduction in customer interruptions and customer minutes lost and improve the efficiency of fault response.

These improvements could then be passed onto customers resulting in lower electricity bills, as well as reduced power cuts. Project Pre-Fix will conclude in March 2023 having started in November 2021.

Alarm

Alarm is looking at low voltage fault management and attempts to use technology to improve – and be more proactive in our approach to – low voltage fault detection.

It uses Lucy Gridkey – a medium and low voltage substation monitoring system – equipment and a distance to fault algorithm to determine where a cable might be about to develop a fault. This would be really useful in avoiding customer interruptions and customer minutes lost.

The project could be of real benefit as the system becomes more vital to people’s lives with the take up of electric vehicles and heat pumps expected to change demand exponentially.

The project finishes in early 2022 and the results have so far been very encouraging.

Peak Heat

Peak Heat will help us understand the knock-on effects of electric heating loads and the role that flexibility – including thermal storage – could take in helping to mitigate network impacts.

The project will deliver an understanding of how heat pumps operate in different buildings, regions and weather conditions and how this will impact different low voltage distribution network typologies.

This project will assess how thermal storage stacks up as an enabler of flexibility and provide an evidence baseline to allow further research streams and potentially trial projects to be developed.

This project will span 15 months with research and consulting company Delta-EE as the main project partner.

Equinox

This project aims to develop novel commercial arrangements and supporting technologies that unlock flexibility from residential low carbon heating, while meeting the needs of all consumers, including the fuel poor and vulnerable. WPD will work alongside several project partners – SP Energy Networks, Octopus Energy, Guidehouse, Sero, Passiv, WMCA and Welsh Government – throughout.

The project will develop three commercial arrangements to understand and unlock flexibility potential from low carbon heat. Quantifying the flexibility will allow DNOs to effectively plan investment and reduce barriers for residential customers to provide flexibility.

Equinox will run from March 2022 to January 2026.

Venice

Venice has net zero, consumers and vulnerability at its heart. It is focussed on looking at what more needs to be done to understand the impact of the pandemic on networks and what we can learn from data to help predict consumer vulnerability and direct help.

It also looks at how community energy schemes can help engage their more vulnerable customers.

WPD is working with three project partners – Frazer Nash, Frontier Economics and Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network – with the project now well underway and already generating a number of key deliverables. It will conclude at the end of 2022.

ACE

ACE (Active Creosote Extraction) will trial methods of extracting creosote – an oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative – from creosote-impregnated wood poles so they can be recycled and donated, reducing the carbon impact of pole disposal by avoiding incendiary processes.

Following extensive research into extractive properties of supercritical fluids, carbon dioxide (CO2) has been shown to solubilise and extract creosote from wood chips.

ACE will create a larger-scale trial, employing an extraction chamber capable of accepting cut lengths of treated wood pole plus associated metalwork.

The project will be carried out by GPT Environmental and will last 15 months, ending in early 2023.

EPIC

The Energy Planning Integrated with Councils (EPIC) project is exploring if a combined approach to energy planning can provide greater benefits for local authorities and utility companies.

It will trial collaborative working with Wales & West Utilities networks and West of England Combined Authority to create a Local Energy Plan, which will be used to create an Integrated Investment Plan.

The project will develop and trial a process using various tools to create integrated plans by sharing data, establishing Local Energy Plans, determining the impact of the changed energy requirements on our networks, proposing solutions – including flexibility – and combining these network options optimally. The project will finish at the end of 2022.

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