https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2017/02/27/making-uks-electricity-distribution-network-smart/

Making UK’s electricity distribution network smart

We are an engineering design and product development company, and have been based in Cambridge, UK, since 1998. Our team of 50 mechanical, electrical and software engineers, product designers and physicists absolutely love solving challenging engineering problems and developing our clients’ next-generation technologies and products.

Our remit is really broad so we’ve:

  • developed exciting new beer, coffee, chocolate and ice-cream products
  • contributed to the design of space-planes, unmanned aerial vehicles and innovative new trains
  • helped companies to develop important new medical products, wireless communications tools, and smart metering technologies

Innovation is our day job

42 Technology's Triple Ohm demo unit
42 Technology's Triple Ohm demo unit

Because our day job is innovation, we see a lot of interesting problems and spot a lot of opportunities. One such opportunity was to develop a truly low-cost condition monitoring system for the UK’s electricity distribution network.

The UK has a network of 400,000 low voltage secondary substations, which are carefully managed to match both energy supply and demand and to ensure the existing infrastructure can accommodate emerging social trends, such as, increasing use of small scale solar installations or charging of electric vehicles.

Better monitoring information allows for more efficient system

42 Technology's PNDC network test facility
42 Technology's PNDC network test facility

By providing the distribution network operators with better information, this could also allow them to run their assets closer to capacity, while helping them to determine the ideal time to upgrade equipment, replace it, or add new capacity.

The current sensing solutions are at a price point where it simply isn’t economical to have systems in every substation. However,

42 Technology’s innovative condition monitoring system offers a real breakthrough in terms of cost, performance and ease of deployment. The system is being specifically designed with a target price of around £100 per installation whereas today’s alternative solutions are more than 10 times as expensive, making them too costly for widespread use - says our managing director, Jeremy Carey.

Demonstrating in Glasgow

We’ve been awarded funding by Innovate UK to work with the Power Networks Demonstration Centre in Glasgow to develop a system based on our Triple Ohm sensing technology.

The new technology offers very high isolation voltages, high data sampling frequencies and can easily be linked to wired or wireless communication networks, making it very suitable for remote monitoring applications.

Reduce costs, improve safety and increase deployment speed

One of the aims of the development is to include Rogowski coils, used for measuring alternating current or high speed current pulses, which will enable the system to be installed without the need to power-down the substation, reducing costs, improving safety, and increasing the speed at which it can be deployed.

Sustainable business plan done, now onto product development and trials

Phase 1 of the project has just finished, and has worked towards establishing confidence in a sustainable business plan. The next phase of the project will last for around one year, assisted by Innovate UK. This is likely to entail 4-6 months of product development followed by varying levels of field trials accompanied by Distribution Network Operator review and feedback from system management.

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