Posted: 17th October 2019

Northern Powergrid (NPG) has partnered with Off Grid Energy to run a trial which could revolutionise temporary power restoration in the UK. Midlands-based Off Grid Energy is a UK manufacturer of alternative power solutions that pioneers energy storage technology in power generation systems for construction, events, and utilities.

The project features electric vans , fitted with on-board energy storage systems that will replace noisy and polluting diesel generators. The ‘Silent Power’ project is the first UK zero-carbon innovation trial to provide a sustainable solution to restoring supplies after a power cut to customers, aimed particularly at the most vulnerable and those with domestic solar generation. The pioneering two-year project could signal a huge clean-energy shift in the temporary power industry.

For all Distribution Network Operators, restoring power to customers when faults occur is of paramount importance. Focus is then on doing that in a way that causes the least disruption, generates the least carbon and at the lowest cost.

“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 mean there are limits to where they can be deployed,” explained Ross McFarlane, Innovation Project Manager for Northern Powergrid. “Alongside the direct customer benefit, we are very excited by the wider positive environmental impact of this trial. 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.”

Diesel generators cannot be deployed to homes fitted with solar PV panels and export energy as it causes the generators to trip. In some areas there are access issues made worse by the generators creating air and sound pollution. So Silent Power was launched to find a quiet and cleaner alternative to enable Northern Powergrid to reach more customers-in-need. The systems installed in the vans are entirely solid state so are silent and emission free during operation.

The electricity from the Silent Power batteries will to be more reliable than diesel generators, which can trip out.  This is a particular problem where customers have their own domestic solar PV generation. Northern Powergrid currently deploys more than 2,500 diesel generators annually to provide temporary power restoration during planned and unplanned power cuts each year.

Danny Jones, director of OffGrid Energy added: “The Silent Power project has been a great opportunity to take our low carbon power solutions to another level, adding a further dimension in driving out emissions from the electricity networks. Working with Northern Powergrid has been a great experience for us at Off Grid where their vision and support has enabled us to push boundaries in ways that would not have otherwise been possible.”

OGE fitted their gridtogo system as a source of power that can be driven to and from a location emission-free. The vehicle is an adaptable resource enabling power to be restored quickly and efficiently without noise and with no carbon emissions or air pollution. With the battery system requiring virtually no maintenance the operating costs are also significantly lowered. Further savings are made as it will eliminate generator service needs, refuelling and, of course, the cost of the fuel itself.

This way, the entire experience, end to end, excludes the use of fossil fuel so there are no carbon emissions, no noise, and no pollution. Any energy exported by solar PV installed at a property can be absorbed into the battery and so keep the customers’ export meter spinning.

Danny Jones, director of OffGrid Energy added: “A spin-off function is that the van is also capable of charging itself. When connected to a property exporting solar PV, an auxiliary output is activated to divert energy to the vehicle’s own battery so that the driver will have a full tank to get back to base when power has been restored”. He added “We are very proud that our technology is able, not only to address air quality and carbon emissions but to also have a significant impact in reducing the cost of managing network faults. Doing so in a way that eliminates noise for consumers means that there are significant wins for all parties and that doesn’t happen very often. This will be particularly valuable in supporting people on the Priority Services Register who may be more dependent on electricity due to a disability or medical condition and could need greater assistance in a power cut.”

During the two-year trial, Northern Powergrid will assess the usability, benefits and economic viability of the battery inverter generator units. The electricity distributor, which is hoping to see a reduction in overall CO2 output when compared with current generators, plans to share the findings with its fellow electricity Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) across the UK, as they continue the transition to become increasingly active Distribution System Operators (DSO).

“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 mean there are limits to where they can be deployed,” explained Ross McFarlane, Innovation Project Manager for Northern Powergrid. “Alongside the direct customer benefit, we are very excited by the wider positive environmental impact of this trial. 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.”