On-site current measurement to improve smart grid design

Posted on 14 Mar 2013

The Centre for Carbon Measurement (CCM) has developed a 'metrology grade' digitiser to help make out electricity grids ‘smart’.

The new technology takes measurements of current and voltage 25,000 times per second, and sends these measurements to an analogue to digital converter. It can then carry out calculations using algorithms developed at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), of which CCM is part, to calculate power quality.

It is estimated that improved technology for measuring power quality in smart grids could save 839,000 tonnes of carbon and bring £250 million annual gross value added in economic benefit.

The growing complexity of power grids and the demands that 21st Century society is making on 20th Century infrastructure has created many opportunities for power quality to be compromised.

Smart grids constantly manage and monitor electricity throughout the network. Electricity information, collected by technologies such as CCM’s digitiser, will be used to improve distribution. Its implementation is essential if we are to get all the benefits of renewable energy sources – where power generation is more volatile than current methods.

CCM’s technology provides one of the most accurate portable methods of making these measurements and produces measurements with an accuracy that was until recently confined to the laboratory.

The team that designed the digitiser used it to study power quality on a large scale photovoltaic array (PV) installation. Their findings will enable grid planners to anticipate potential pitfalls in the design of the future grid and thus should make a highly significant contribution to carbon reduction.

The system is now being used in Belgium, Denmark and Turkey, helping scientists assess the impact of renewable electricity on the smart grid and plan for ambitious energy transmission schemes. Two more are being used in Sweden to monitor the power quality of a 255 kilometre submarine cable between Sweden and Poland.

The NPL, which is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, is now planning to licence the proprietary digitiser design to a commercial instrument supplier. They hope this will expand the user base and enhance the technology’s influence on the architecture and composition of the smart grids of the future.


Follow Harry Dalton on Twitter