The UK's Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has installed and commissioned into service at a UK Power Networks main substation what it is describing as a revolutionary new design of fault current limiter.

The UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has installed and commissioned into service at a UK Power Networks main substation in Newhaven, East Sussex, what it is describing as a revolutionary new design of fault current limiter. It is now in service on the 11 kV distribution network and will be demonstrated in operation for two years.

An FCL suppresses the high current flows which result from electricity distribution network faults, in particular short circuits, thereby increasing network capability and reliability. The new unit has been developed and manufactured by Israel-based GridON with its Australian partner the Wilson Transformer Company.

An efficient FCL can remove the fault level constraints more cost effectively than network upgrades, which ultimately enables the installation of more low carbon and other electricity generation directly onto the distribution system, with shorter connection times and reduced connection costs. It also helps enable smart distribution networks.

This new FCL is said to be a breakthrough in design that removes the need for superconducting components, resulting in a simple, reliable and low maintenance solution. It is fully scaleable for use at all voltage levels on both distribution and transmission systems. This will potentially help minimise the costs of upgrading the UK’s electricity distribution and transmission networks over the next 20 to 30 years.

The design is based on combining industry-standard, proven transformer technology with GridON’s proprietary concept of magnetic flux alteration to saturate the iron core. GridON’s device offers performance benefits including instant, self-triggering response to a fault, immediate recovery following clearance of the fault without network interruption, and suppression of multiple consecutive faults. It is the first such fully tested, commercially viable non superconducting pre-saturated fault current limiter.

The FCL has been comprehensively tested by a certified high power laboratory in Australia, where it underwent more than 50 fault tests, before being shipped to the UK. UK Power Networks has fully approved the design and testing, and for the purposes of the demonstration, is acting as network operation customer. E.ON’s New Build & Technology division is providing technical assurance expertise and network modelling support.

Nick Eraut, ETI Project Manager – Energy Storage & Distribution, said: "Upgrading the UK electricity distribution network to meet radically changing requirements will potentially cost tens of billions of pounds over the next 20 to 30 years. This investment is critical to ensuring that we have a system that is able to support a range of energy technologies now in development. This is the first of two FCL developments commissioned and funded by the ETI. We believe that GridON’s new FCL will offer major advantages to distribution network operators and suppliers of distributed generation equipment."

Yoram Valent, co-founder and chief executive of GridON, said: "The successful commissioning of GridON’s FCL into service on UK Power Networks’ system demonstrates the potential for increasing generation and network connectivity, and for significant cuts in system upgrade costs, by providing operators and network designers with FCLs as part of their toolkit. The ever-increasing network complexity, competitive power markets, rapidly growing intermittent renewable supply and ageing infrastructure conspire to challenge system operators daily. Our use of well-established manufacturing technology and our product’s inherent simplicity and minimal maintenance requirements, combined with its superior fit-to-purpose performance, will significantly cut capital expenditures and operating costs and extend the useful life of existing network assets."