First GB voltage management project goes live in world-first for independent business

The first in a series of pioneering projects to manage voltage levels across Great Britain’s electricity system has gone live, providing increased network resilience, reducing costs to consumers and lowering carbon emissions.

National Grid ESO’s Mersey Pathfinder aimed to find an economic “reactive power” solution to managing high overnight voltage in the Merseyside region of England, created when demand and flows on the transmission network are lower. 

PeakGen, a specialist in generation, storage, transmission and distribution energy networks, was awarded a contract under the programme to solve the issue, which if left unmanaged could potentially cause electrical flashovers and damage equipment.

Traditionally, reactive power services have been provided by large fossil fuel plants, such as coal and gas, but as we transition to low and zero carbon energy sources and large generators are wound down, new sources and providers of reactive power are needed.

The Mersey Reactive Power solution comprises a shunt reactor which absorbs reactive power to increase the efficiency of the network and manage high voltage levels.

PeakGen’s 200-tonne reactor, sited at a private 400kV substation in Frodsham, Cheshire, needed a temporary military-style ‘Bailey bridge’ to be built across an active river to move it into position and benefited from efficient and optimised engineering design.

The 200MVAr* reactor has now gone live after nearly two years in the making and will provide reactive power services to the ESO over at least the next 10 years.

Julian Leslie, Head of Networks at National Grid ESO, said: “We are delighted with the successful launch of the first of our voltage pathfinders in the Mersey region as part of our mission to provide a safe, reliable and greener electricity system which is fair for all.

“As we transition to using zero carbon energy sources and away from large fossil fuel generators, there is an ever increasing need to absorb reactive power and prevent high voltage levels.

“Solutions, such as those provided by PeakGen, improve system resilience and boost our plans to be able to operate a carbon-free grid by 2025 and reduce costs to consumers.”

Ian Graves, CEO at PeakGen, said: “This is a world-first project delivered by an independent business and I am exceptionally proud we have delivered it for the ESO successfully, on time and on budget.

“We are thrilled with this landmark achievement, particularly during very challenging conditions. I hope it helps drive forward innovation and cheaper solutions to realise a more affordable and sustainable energy supply for all.

“The project has proved that independent companies can deliver safe and high-quality infrastructure to the highest standards and has given us confidence to bid for similar contracts coming through the Pathfinder programme.”

Find out more about this project here.