19 Jun 2013   |   Network Updates

GridON’s breakthrough commercial Fault Current Limiter is in service at a UK Power Networks substation


The Fault Current Limiter (FCL), developed by GridON Ltd, winner of the 2011 ACES Smart Grid Award, has been installed and commissioned into service at a UK Power Networks main substation in Newhaven, East Sussex. The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has procured and funded this £5m development and demonstration project, aiming to drive the technology development to a point at which network operators could deploy this product which is now fully tested, and commercially available. E.ON New Build & Technology  provided technical assurance and network modeling support.

The FCL suppresses the damaging currents which result from electricity distribution network faults and thus it increases network capability and reliability.

Developed and manufactured together with GridON’s Australian partner Wilson Transformer Company, this innovative state-of-the-art FCL enables the cost-effective growth and increased flexibility of electricity networks.

Removing the fault level constraints without costly network upgrades enables the installation of more low carbon and other electricity generation directly onto the distribution system, with shorter connection times and reduced connection costs. It also enables smart distribution networks with increased network efficiency, flexibility, reliability and resilience. The breakthrough in design removes the need for superconducting components which results in a simple, reliable and low maintenance solution. It is fully scalable for use at all voltage levels on both distribution and transmission systems. This will potentially help minimize the costs of upgrading the UK’s electricity distribution and transmission networks over the next 20 to 30 years.

The design is based on combining industry-standard, proven transformer technology with GridON’s unique and proprietary concept of magnetic flux alteration to saturate the iron core.  GridON’s device offers performance benefits including instant, self-triggering response to a fault, immediate recovery following clearance of the fault without network interruption, and suppression of multiple consecutive faults. It is the first such fully tested, commercially viable non superconducting pre-saturated fault current limiter.

The FCL has been comprehensively tested by a certified high power laboratory in Australia, where it underwent more than 50 fault tests.  UK Power Networks and E.ON New Build & Technology have fully approved the design and testing, before being shipped to the UK.  The FCL is now in service on the 11kV distribution network.

“The successful commissioning of GridON’s fully-tested FCL into service on UK Power Networks’ system demonstrates the potential for increasing generation and network connectivity, and for significant cuts in system upgrade costs, by providing operators and network designers with FCLs as part of their toolkit,” said Yoram Valent, Co-founder and Chief Executive of GridON. “The ever-increasing network complexity, competitive power markets, rapidly growing intermittent renewable supply and aging infrastructure conspire to challenge system operators daily.  Our use of well-established manufacturing technology and our product’s inherent simplicity and minimal maintenance requirements, combined with its superior fit-to-purpose performance, will significantly cut capital expenditures and operating costs and extend the useful life of existing network assets.”

Nick Eraut, ETI Project Manager - Energy Storage & Distribution, said:  “Upgrading the UK electricity distribution network to meet radically changing requirements will potentially cost tens of billions of pounds over the next 20 to 30 years. This investment is critical to ensuring that we have a system that is able to support a range of energy technologies now in development. This is the first of two FCL developments commissioned and funded by the ETI. We believe that GridON’s new FCL will offer major advantages to distribution network operators and suppliers of distributed generation equipment.”

Martin Wilcox, Head of Future Networks, UK Power Networks commented:  “High fault levels impact both how we operate and the connection offers we are able to provide to generation customers. GridON’s fault current limiter looks to be a good solution to avoid having to replace switchgear prematurely or unnecessary interruptions to customers supplies. The similarity in design to our existing transformer fleet minimises additional impact on our operation and maintenance teams. It should also enable us to better work with generation customers to provide the best value solution on fault level constrained parts of our network.”

Andrew Ellis, Head of Electrical Power Engineering at E.ON New Build & Technology, said:  “High fault levels in distribution networks are increasingly becoming a constraint for the connection of environmentally friendly distributed generation. Active fault current management through fault current limiters is an ideal way forward in mitigating this risk, both technically and commercially. We expect that the FCL device that has been developed under this project will take us much closer to the realisation of a viable solution for our distribution networks and distributed generation projects.”

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