A new ‘smart’ grid system, which aims to revolutionise the way electricity is distributed, has been launched in Edinburgh.
The company behind the Faraday Grid claims the prototype session can solve three of the biggest problems facing electricity grids today, namely delivering affordable energy, maintaining stability and increasing the amount of renewables in the energy mix.
It also claims if such a system was rolled out across the UK, it could cut carbon emissions by 54 million tonnes and save the country more than £1bn by making the National Grid more efficient.
Speaking to Environment Journal, the executive chairman of Faraday Grid, Andrew Scobie, said its technology is ‘intended to be a ubiquitous tool’ across any form of electrical transfer, from generation to consumption.
‘With the launch of the Faraday Exchanger, we are unashamedly seeking to change the course of history, enabling society to integrate and access much more clean and affordable renewable energy than ever before.’
Decarbonising the system
The Faraday Grid is a wide network of ‘smart’ exchangers, which fit seamlessly into the existing electricity system.
Each exchanger operates independently of any central control network and solves the problem of varying power supply, while simultaneously ensuring continuity of supply through dynamic balancing of power flows.
And as Mr Scobie explains, the idea was born in Australia, which has seen several massive energy blackouts in recent years.
‘In locations like Australia we are seeing an increasing grid stability problem at a technical level, as the penetration of distributed renewable energy is increasing and increasing,’ Mr Scobie told Environment Journal.
‘Historically, what we’ve had is this extraordinary circumstance over the last 132 years since William Stanley invented the transformer where our prosperity has been increased by 14 times and it has been driven by our increasing our energy consumption by a factor of 14 times.
‘During that period of time, there’s almost a perfect correlation between those two numbers. So messing with our energy system is not something that should be done lightly, but unfortunately because we have the pressing need to address climate change, we need to decarbonise the system and that will fall to utilities and energy systems.’
Adapting to renewables
As Scobie points out, the energy industry is having to decarbonise, while at the same time come to terms with more renewable energy coming into the mix, which by its very nature can be intermittent.
Alongside side, the growing demand for electric vehicles means demand for electricity is also increasing.
‘That sets up a circumstance in which the grid is really being challenged, because it’s highly efficient and very inflexible.
‘As a consequence, it is starting to fail and you see locations like Australia where it has failed outright four times in the last 18 months because of the penetration of variable load renewables into the system.
‘Otherwise in California or Germany, instead of having the grid fail they are simply curtailing the energy off or giving it away for free. In fact, the Germans are now paying people to take the energy to keep their grid stable. No economy does well, when it pays people to take their product.
‘The Faraday Grid is a dynamic grid, which is able to balance supply and demand in milliseconds at the location of the transformer. It replaces inverters, converters and transformers,’ added Mr Scobie.