A project devised by SP Energy Networks to help green energy schemes connect to the electricity network more quickly by working with local communities has scooped a prestigious award. The Accelerating Renewable Connections (ARC) project picked up the Best Innovation title at the Scottish Green Energy Awards in Edinburgh last night (Thursday 3rd December).
The pilot project, which is operational in the Scottish Borders and East Lothian, also features partner organisations Community Energy Scotland, Smarter Grid Solutions and the University of Strathclyde.
Explaining how the project works, SP Energy Networks Senior Project Manager Euan Norris, said: “In some areas our network is approaching full capacity because of the high uptake of renewable energy projects. This can mean that those wishing to connect new renewable energy projects have to pay for the reinforcement of the network, that they cannot connect as soon as they would like, or that once they are connected, the amount of energy they are able to generate is constrained.
“ARC achieves earlier and more cost effective renewable connections by matching locally produced energy with local electricity demand. Because the energy produced is used closer to where it is generated, it reduces the need for the upgrades to the network that can be needed to bulk export energy further afield, reducing the cost and the time to connect.”
ARC works using two main principles. Active Network Management, which involves electricity generators being asked to reduce or increase the amount of energy they produce to meet local electricity demand and respond to network constraints. SP Energy Networks also works with local community organisations to develop new ways of matching locally-produced energy with local energy demand.
ARC has enabled SP Energy Networks to connect and commission the UK’s largest actively managed connection at Aikengall Wind Farm with a combined generation capacity of 49.5MW. The project is also installing 749 photovoltaic arrays onto local homes, saving residents around £1.9 million in energy costs over the lifetime of the systems.
The ARC project is supported by the Low Carbon Networks Fund, an initiative from the energy regulator Ofgem to encourage electricity distribution network operators to test new technology, operating and commercial arrangements.