Flexibility for the New Conventional Landscape

Ricardo Da Silva, Grid and Regulation Analyst at ScottishPower Renewables, is one of RenewableUK's #RUKGOW19 Industry Champions. Catch him at the Innovation Theatre at 12:45 on Wednesday 26th June talking about the UK System Operator's intention to operate the system safely and securely at zero carbon by 2025. You can see the full programme for Global Offshore Wind 2019 and register here.

Ricardo Da Silva, Grid and Regulation Analyst at ScottishPower Renewables

I recently had the opportunity to listen to BBC Radio 4 ‘Stress Test’ show with “network resilience” being topic for discussion. Key industry representatives such as Fintan Slye (Director at NGESO) and Keith Anderson (ScottishPower CEO) were discussing potential solutions to ‘close-to-catastrophe’ scenarios where security and continuity of the network were at stake. It did not surprise me to hear that the first scenario discussed how reliance on variable renewables could pose a risk to the system IF the renewable resources are not there to meet high peak demand during extreme weather conditions.


Yes, the output from wind and solar is variable, we all get that! It’s probably a statement that doesn’t need repeating - it's the “new normal” for the world we are living in. If there are resilience scenarios that could leave us in tough positions, then let’s make use of all available technologies to mitigate that possibility. So what’s a potential solution for the ‘New Conventional Landscape’? … We need storage!. And then… more storage. Perhaps even massive amounts!


Think about other utility services such as gas and water. Those rely on at least a couple of days of contingency in their systems to accommodate for shortages, so why should electricity be any different?


I was happy to hear storage being mentioned in the BBC discussion as a key driver for ensuring the system can be maintained during stress conditions. Storage, beyond ‘just batteries’, must play a big role in delivering the system support we need to run a zero carbon system. Storing energy and having available system inertia are at the top of my wish list for the industry and System Operators. Pump Storage, Air Compressed Storage, Battery Storage, Flow Batteries, Hydrogen, Hybrid and ‘not so’ hybrid Synchronous Condensers are just a few of the options that will enable the future I want to see.


Storage might be a piece of a larger jigsaw puzzle that will mean we can deploy ever greater amounts of offshore and onshore wind, while ensuring network restoration and resilience are absolutely possible in a zero carbon generation system. Add to this innovative solutions like control system algorithms such as virtual synchronous machines and you will transform renewables into the ‘New Conventional’.


Flexibility from renewables goes beyond co-location or hybridisation and it is my passion to ensure the opportunity to demonstrate this is not missed. Windfarms have a significant level of flexibility that must be unlocked for the benefit of the system and the consumer.

It takes only a signal to allow wind to actively participate in ancillary services. What signal? A Power Available signal which is the ability to see a windfarm’s headroom in real time. If you are a renewables developer, make sure you get one ASAP. This is a simple but critical change to the way the System Operators operate and how they can take full advantage of renewables for services such as frequency response and balancing mechanism activities and which will avoid bringing online expensive conventional generation from a cold start to get the same level of flexibility. Now that we’ve broken the ‘no-coal’ system running records, the next goal is to meet the 2025 zero carbon system operation target of running the system without gas.


The technology is here and now! We just need to optimise it for the challenges we are facing.


The parallel challenge is another kind of transition; changing peoples’ mind-sets. While people naturally want to hang-on to the practices that have served us well over the past century in operating and managing assets and systems. But this too needs to change, and change fast!

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