UK first: Solar power plant helps keep the lights on at night

One of Lightsource BP’s solar farms in East Sussex provided a reactive power voltage support service overnight, delivered through UK Power Networks’ distribution network

A new trial in the UK has seen a solar farm successfully smooth voltage fluctuations for the first time at night.

Lightsource BP used one of its solar plants in East Sussex to provide a reactive power voltage support service overnight, delivered through UK Power Networks’ (UKPN) distribution network.

Reactive power is the ability to maintain voltage levels on electricity transmission systems, allowing more energy to be transported down existing infrastructure and increasing capacity without the need for infrastructure upgrades.

Inverters within a solar plant can provide reactive power by reducing or increasing voltage levels and Lightsource BP says its trial showcased how it could help National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) manage voltage on the transmission network, with the potential to save energy customers more than £400 million by 2050 and provide up to an additional 4GW of power capacity in the South East.

Kareen Boutonnat, Lightsource BP Chief Operating Officer, said: “The success of this trial clearly demonstrates 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 focused on pushing the boundaries and forging partnerships to remain a leading innovator across our sector.”

National Grid confirmed it is the first night-time grid support service from a solar power plant in the UK.

Dr. Biljana Stojkovska, National Grid Electricity System Operator, Power Potential Project lead added: “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.”

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