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Sensors Monitor Renewables and Collisions on Overhead Power Lines in the United Kingdom

Tollgrade participates in Ofgem-funded projects that will deliver cost and safety benefits to UK consumers.

Tollgrade Communications, Inc. is actively engaged in Ofgem-funded projects with Western Power Distribution (WPD), Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD) and Community Energy Scotland. WPD will deploy Tollgrade LightHouse Sensors to monitor network capacity and renewables to avoid building expensive new infrastructure and reduce the cost passed onto UK consumers. SSEPD is spearheading a first-of-its kind project that will use Tollgrade LightHouse Sensors to monitor medium-voltage overhead lines for collisions to better and more proactively protect public safety from accidental contact with overhead lines.

Community Energy Scotland will assist the procurement and operation of sensors by community-owned generators enabling participants to see the power flows within their local networks; a vital element in developing local energy systems. These projects are important to UK consumers because they will help keep the costs of energy delivery down, improve public safety and combat global climate change by reducing the UK’s carbon footprint.

SSEPD’s Project Intends to Detect Accidental Collisions

SSEPD delivers electricity to over 3.7 million customers across its distribution regions in northern Scotland and central southern England.  SSEPD has many rural locations in its operating region, particularly in Scotland, where overhead electricity lines cross forest roads, access ways, farm roads, footpaths and rivers that are difficult to monitor in real-time.  In these rural areas, early visibility and detection of accidental collisions with overhead lines can minimise the disruption of electricity supply to customers and assist the utility to take steps to safeguard the public against dangerous conditions caused by overhead line collisions. To deliver this £710,000 project, SSEPD and Tollgrade have entered into a joint agreement under the Ofgem Innovation Funding Incentive (IFI) mechanism.

“Rural overhead lines are susceptible to inadvertent contact by vehicles, fishing rods and even kites, especially when crossing roads and tracks in remote areas of farm land and forest,” said Steward Reid, Future Networks Manager, SSEPD. “This IFI funded project allows SSEPD to work with Tollgrade to design a monitoring solution that is capable of observing overhead line collisions, providing us with information that we can use to take measures to proactively protect public safety.” 

Meeting Renewables and Low Carbon Initiatives

The energy mix in the United Kingdom is changing quickly to meet low carbon initiatives and mandates. WPD and Community Energy Scotland are expecting changes in the way electricity flows through their distribution network as consumers adopt more low-carbon technologies, including electric vehicles and renewable generation sources.  

As one of seven DNOs in the United Kingdom responsible for delivering electricity to the Midlands, South Wales, and the South West, WPD delivers electricity to more than 7.8 million customers over a 55,500 square kilometer service area.  Tollgrade supplied overhead line sensors to WPD as part of WPD’s Flexible Approaches to Low Carbon Optimised Networks (FALCON) project, a £16 million Ofgem funded program that aims to improve the industry’s understanding of infrastructure needs in a low-carbon environment.  The project is proving out the value proposition of monitoring the distribution network to better understand how the network could adapt when renewables are introduced and to understand how to get more capacity out of the current infrastructure. A video with background information on the project is available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QAbon85yrk

Community Energy Scotland was formed in 2007 as a member-based charity, comprising over 300 community and 150 associate business members. Community Energy Scotland aims to assist local communities to build their resources and resilience, through ownership of local renewable generation and associated energy services. 

“Community Energy Scotland will assist a number of community energy groups in the Inner Hebrides experiencing constrained local grids to procure these sensors.” said Benny Talbot, Development Officer Local Energy Economies, Community Energy Scotland. The sensors will provide real-time monitoring of power flows on the local grid, and should allow the community groups to work with the local District Network Operators to explore ways to safely bring on and control new community-owned renewable generation.” 

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