A fleet of electric vans backed with onboard energy storage systems is aiming to “revolutionise” temporary power restoration.
Northern Powergrid, the firm responsible for the electricity distribution network across the North East of England, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is trialling the technology as part of its Silent Power project.
The pioneering two-year initiative aims to provide a sustainable solution to restoring power to customers affected by planned and unplanned power outages.
The electric-powered vans are fitted with a prototype 40 kVA lithium-ion battery inverter generator unit which is used instead of the typical noisy and polluting diesel generator.
The energy storage system, developed in partnership by battery manufacturer Hyperdrive Innovation and hybrid generator specialist Offgrid Energy, can power up to three homes or a small community centre for up to 24 hours.
The project expects that the battery-equipped vans will be more reliable than the diesel generators, which are prone to tripping out. The batteries are silent during operation.
It will also prove invaluable for houses that have distributed energy generation capabilities from renewable sources such as rooftop solar panels. At the moment, the diesel generators can’t accept such power input but the batteries can, meaning valuable renewable resource isn’t wasted.
At present, Northern Powergrid deploys 2,500 diesel generators a year to provide temporary power during both planned and unplanned outages.
More than a fifth of customers covered by the electricity distributor are on the Priority Services Register of people who may need additional support during a blackout.
Around 12% of these rely on electricity for their health and wellbeing.
“Traditional diesel generators have been great at restoring power to keep vulnerable customers safer and more comfortable during a power cut. However, the noise and air-pollution means there are limits to where they can be deployed.
“Alongside the direct customer benefit, we are very excited by the wider positive environmental impact of this trail.
“Many industries need temporary power supplies, if this can be shared across other sectors, we have another way to bring more renewable sources into our energy mix.”
– Ross McFarlane, Innovation Project Manager for Northern Powergrid
Over the course of the two-year trial, Northern Powergrid will assess the usability, benefits and economic viability of the battery inverter generator units. It predicts a reduction in overall CO2 emissions compared with diesel generators too.
It will share the results with other electricity Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) across the UK.
“Traditional generators cannot accept power input from customers’ generation, which can happen at times of low load, as they were only designed to output power.
“The Silent Power battery solution can. This is becoming ever more important with rooftop solar installations throughout electricity networks.
“It means we don’t waste green energy that otherwise would be lost.”
– Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets Director for Northern Powergrid