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ScottishPower Renewables succeed at re-energising power grid with wind energy

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Energy Global,

With one year to go until the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) has managed to re-energise part of the power grid using energy from a 69 MW onshore windfarm.

The successful project, at Dersalloch windfarm in South Ayrshire, Scotland, proves wind power can restore a ‘blacked-out’ section of the transmission network. ‘Black start’ restoration - the name given to the procedure used to restore power in the event of a total or partial shutdown of the electricity transmission system - is often reliant on traditional fossil fuels such as coal and gas. So, using renewables to do this is an extraordinary achievement, that has the potential to transform how power could be restored to the network.

The project saw SPR partner Siemens Gamesa Renewables Energy (SGRE) deploy the latest technology at the windfarm. SPR and SGRE worked in collaboration with SP Energy Networks (SPEN) when it was time to interact with the grid. This highly innovative project also received part-funding from the Scottish Government.

It used ‘grid-forming’ technology called virtual synchronous machines (VSM) to regulate the frequency and voltage of the power from the turbines - essentially forming a stable network island - to keep the electricity system stable and balanced. The technology was then used to integrate that supply with the grid and restore the part of the system that had been blacked out.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Energy Minister, said: “Over the past decade Scotland has delivered huge success in decarbonising the electrical energy generated in Scotland, with renewable electricity delivering the equivalent of more than 90% of the power needed to meet Scotland’s demand for electricity in 2019. It is important that wind farms, which provided 73% of Scotland’s renewable electricity generation, don’t only provide zero carbon energy, but can also deliver the technical services that older, now-closed power stations would have provided for the grid to deliver an effective ‘black start’ recovery in the event of a major power cut.

“The Scottish Government, recognising the value in stimulating innovation to identify ways in which Scotland’s vast renewable potential could also augment our capability to deliver a ‘black start’ response, has provided financial support of £550 000 to this project through our Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and I am delighted with the outcome. Now Dersalloch has achieved a world first in proving that a wind farm can deliver vital ‘black start’ services in the event of a wider power blackout, and this is a crucial step in ensuring that we can deliver timely recovery times from any such incident should it occur while helping underpin a sustainable security of supply of electricity in Scotland as we move towards an energy system that is consistent with Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

“This technology will be vitally important, not just in Scotland and the UK, but worldwide. As more countries follow Scotland’s lead in closing down polluting fossil fuel power stations and moving to a renewable electricity system, the market for services that deliver sustainable security of supply will grow and I am keen that Scotland can be at the heart of that.”

The trial allowed SPEN to gain knowledge about precisely how many turbines would need to be connected prior to attempting switching of the largest transformers and longer lines, which would be necessary to recover the wider network following a ‘black start’ event.

The success of the project provides the basis for Dersalloch to become a ‘black start’ windfarm by 2022, with work to install new infrastructure and battery storage at the site expected to be underway by November 2021, when COP26 takes place in nearby Glasgow, Scotland, attended by delegates from across the globe.

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