United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Wind turbine ‘slow-down tech’ can protect electricity grids from blowouts

A new control system to manage the speed of turbines will help ease grid pressures and avoid the risk of blackouts in the future, researchers have claimed.

Slowing down wind turbines could help prevent blackouts (pic: Molgreen/wikimediacommons)
Slowing down wind turbines could help prevent blackouts (pic: Molgreen/wikimediacommons)

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The lead researcher of a University of Birmingham study wrote in the IEEE Open Access Journal of Power and Energy in June that a new frequency control system “could revolutionise the UK’s power grid’s frequency control”.

Xiao-Ping Zhang, director of Smart Grid at the Birmingham Energy Institute, said his team had created a new system that is able to change the speed of rotors to help level out peaks on the grid.

Last year, a 40-minute blackout created chaos across large swathes of England and Wales after both a gas-fired power station and Ørsted's 1.2GW Hornsea One offshore wind farm went down due to lightning strikes.

Thousands of homes were left without power, people were stranded on trains and traffic lights stopped working, with a backlog of problems lasting across the weekend.

The University of Birmingham Enterprise system adopts a fast-frequency support scheme for wind turbine systems that can respond to the change in demand and the change in generation by “significantly raising and closing the settling frequency and eliminating frequency second dip”. 

As more wind turbines are integrated on national grids, frequency dips can occur more quickly, increasing the likelihood of blackouts. But had his team’s system been in place, the UK’s national grid would have been saved from the power cut, Zhang said. 

The University of Birmingham Enterprise has applied for a patent to protect the system.

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