Frequency response systems needed to avoid power cuts

Data and analytics provider, Aurora Energy Research has released a report with a preliminary analysis of the power outage that caused significant disruptions across the UK on Friday, reported on here. The incident has prompted an investigation by Ofgem and the National Grid into the cause of the near-simultaneous failure of gas-powered energy plant Little Barford CCGT and offshore windfarm Hornsea during Friday’s rush hour.

Aurora has pointed to low system inertia (an energy producing system’s resistance to changes in frequency that arise from kinetic energy in wind turbines) as a possible answer, though the research group made clear that wind variability is unlikely to be a contributing factor in this instance. Rather than calling wind variability a direct cause of the outage, Aurora suggests that the variation may have contributed to the low levels of system inertia, which could have amplified the effects of a system failure, whatever the cause may have been. According to Aurora, these low levels of inertia can be managed, as long as there is enough “flexible capacity (e.g. batteries, reciprocating engines, demand side response) able to provide synthetic inertia” which would have aided efforts for a faster response. Aurora urges further
investment into frequency response systems to avoid further disruptions that could affect hospitals, airports and UK businesses.

Protection systems that monitor frequency events could also be to blame, according to Aurora, as these protection systems can trigger disconnections in the event of an abnormality. This would mean that Hornsea’s failure was an automatic response to the disconnection of Little Barford. Until the National Grid and Ofgem finish their reports by 16 August and 6 September, the root cause of the outage remains to be seen.

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