Low Voltage Network Automation for ESB Networks and NIE Networks


The Challenge

To enable the transition to a low carbon future, the electricity system will need to become more resilient and have the additional capacity to cater for the increase in electrical load associated with the electrification of heat and transport and to accommodate the increasing amounts of distributed generation that will connect to the LV network. This increase in capacity and resilience of the network is essential in order to accommodate the requirements of our customers and society.

The Solution

Low Voltage Network Automation will see the deployment of intelligent circuit breakers and switches across LV networks, representing a significant deployment for ESB Networks and NIE Networks.

The project will see the development of the communications channels and back-end processes to integrate within the existing systems. The equipment will work autonomously, closing normally open positions, to mesh LV circuits so that capacity is unlocked and shared between circuits and transformers. Meshing networks in this manner reduces peak power flows and flattens voltage profiles allowing additional demand on networks or more timely new connections for low carbon and renewable generation, while minimising cost and disruption to customers and offering control engineers real time visibility and control of the trial LV networks.

The solution will manage faults, be able to discriminate between transient (temporary) and permanent network faults, restoring supply to the maximum number of customers safely and in less time than would be the case currently, improving network performance. Following a fault on these meshed LV networks, customers on healthy networks will be restored within seconds and without human intervention, significantly improving network performance.  The equipment will safely monitor networks for the reoccurrence of any fault and ultimately restore meshed networks and capacity sharing.

The Benefits

The trend of increasing controllability from the primary HV network down through the secondary HV network and now reaching the LV network and deployment of autonomous schemes will ease the burden on control engineers and maximise the speed of response. High quality and granular real time data from LV networks has many applications including accessing additional network capacity previously thought to be unavailable and potentially predict network faults allowing action to be taken, minimising customer outages and improving network performance. It also captures high quality data from LV networks and offers new insights into customer and network behaviours supporting engineers planning future networks. 

The Future

This innovative project will facilitate additional load on the network and more timely new connections for low carbon and renewable generation, while minimising cost and disruption to customers. This project has considered long term mass device roll-out, in both the communications medium chosen and integration within existing ESB Network and NIE Network control systems. The real time visibility offers high quality data on LV network conditions that was previously difficult to obtain which can be leveraged for control purposes or to better inform network investment decisions. The controllability and autonomy of these schemes offers flexibility in LV networks never imagined when the networks were originally designed.