Pioneering project sees National Grid ESO trial night time solar energy service

UK first sees National Grid ESO working with Lightsource BP and UK Power Networks to use a solar plant at night time to help balance the grid.

In a successful trial, which took place on Monday 4th November, Lightsource BP used one of its solar plants in East Sussex to demonstrate a night-time reactive power voltage support service to National Grid ESO.

Lightsource BP infographic on night time solar panels

Reactive power services are a key part of how we maintain a safe and secure electricity system, making sure voltage levels on the system remain within a given range.

The transmission network in the South East of England requires dynamic voltage support to help maintain the security of the network. Currently dynamic voltage control is predominantly provided by gas or wind generators, this is the first time in Great Britain it has been provided by a solar plant embedded in the distribution network,

In this trial, Lightsource BP upgraded the inverters at the solar plant, enabling them to do dynamic voltage control and reflect it back to us as reactive power - which can be done at night when the asset is not producing active power.

This follows three years of testing and development and forms part of the joint National Grid ESO and UK Power Networks ‘Power Potential’ project, which aims to create a new reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DERs) on the south east distribution network. The initiative aims to save UK energy customer over £400m by 2050 and provide up to an additional 4 GW of power capacity in the South East region of the UK.

Dr. Biljana Stojkovska, National Grid Electricity System Operator, Power Potential Project lead comments:

“As we move towards our 2025 ambition of being able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free we are seeing more renewable generation come online – such as wind and solar – which in turn requires finding new ways of managing system characteristics like voltage. This innovative trial, which forms part of our Power Potential project, is an exciting first step. We look forward to seeing it progress over the coming months as we explore new reactive power markets for distributed energy resources, and their potential to cut costs for energy consumers.”

Kareen Boutonnat (COO LSBP) , Lightsource BP Chief Operating Officer, comments:

“The success of this trial clearly demonstrates very clearly that innovation is key in addressing the future growth of the energy sector. With electricity demand increasing so rapidly, we have to be in a constant state of evolution in order to solve the problems of the future.

Right now, we have proven that solar plants can play a larger role across the electricity network – even at night.! However, it is only the beginning and as our team continue to develop and support this project, we will remain focussed on pushing the boundaries and forging partnerships to remain a leading innovator across our sector”.

Dr. Rita Shaw, UK Power Networks, Power Potential Project lead comments:

“We are delighted to have successfully supported Lightsource BP in testing to confirm participation of its solar plant in our reactive power trials. It is one of many examples of innovative collaboration helping to ensure that both distribution networks and our customers are future-ready.”

For more information on Power Potential, please click here.