Renewable Energy Plans Could Lead to Voltage Instabilities for the UK

Renewable Energy Plans Could Lead to Voltage Instabilities for the UK

The UK Government has proposed a new energy strategy to replace existing fossil fuels with renewable energy by 2030.

Under this proposal, nearly a third of British electricity would be generated by offshore wind farms by 2030. If the plan was agreed, it could see more electricity being generated by renewables than fossil fuels for the first time in UK history with 70 percent coming from low-carbon sources.

Currently offshore wind energy provides 7% of British power, however, the plan would aim to boost this to 30% (Gabbatis, 2019).

The Crown Estate is set to release new seabed land in 2019, and beyond, which could be utilised for future offshore wind farms.

Although this move to low-carbon energy is a good move for the environment, renewable energies such as solar and wind turbines promote fluctuations in the electricity supply which in turn risks grid supply instabilities with the potential to trigger wide-scale blackouts.

A report by the Australian Energy Market Commission in 2018 revealed that the country’s National Grid has become more unstable year-on-year with this change owing to changes in how the country is generating power with a move towards more renewable energy sources (Murphy, 2018).

If the UK moves to incorporate more renewable energies as planned, then the country could see a similar trend to Australia in regard to voltage instability. Also, due to its very nature, renewable energy is unreliable and provides a largely intermittent supply.

The irregular supply of renewable energy can lead to voltage fluctuations and voltage sags. Modern electrical equipment including inverters and medical imaging equipment is highly sensitive to voltage fluctuations and can become affected easily by instability in the electricity supply. A partial voltage sag of 20% – 30% for five milliseconds can lead to system failures or faults.

The ability to control voltage sags and swells in less than 3,000th of a second is something that Watford Control has been solving since being granted a world-wide patent in 1972 for our first “solid state” system.

Developing this solution further today, Watford Control is now working with our European partners in bringing the Oxygen system to the UK. The Oxygen system is an advanced voltage sag compensator which can protect against unstable voltage supplies.

With system sizes from 200kVA to 4,000kVA and +/-20% continuous correction at full load, with an additional 60% boost for 1 minute, the Oxygen Turbo (https://watfordcontrol.com/voltage-sag/) can correct voltage sags in a market leading <3ms – leaving our competitors in the dark and keeping your business running even if renewable energies lead to instabilities in the National Grid.

Watford Control have been manufacturing voltage stabilisers and voltage management systems for over 70 years.

References Gabbatis, J. (2019). Renewable Energy ‘to Replace Fossil Fuels as Britain’s Main Power Source’ for First Time in History. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/wind-power-offshore-renewable-energy-electricity-a8811616.html [Accessed 3 Apr. 2019].

Murphy, K. (2018). Energy Market Commission says Electricity Grid Increasingly Unstable. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/mar/20/energy-market-commission-says-electricity-grid-increasingly-unstable [Accessed 3 Apr. 2019].