Faraday Grid trial could “redefine the electricity grid”

Posted: October 23, 2018 by oldbrew in innovation
Tags: ,

[credit: green lantern electric]


The sales pitch is that this technology “has the potential to double the amount of renewable generation a grid can carry.” But the chronic intermittency of renewables remains, so the prospect of carrying more from them is a double-edged sword in terms of grid reliability.

A new grid technology is to go on trial in London in a project that could “redefine how the electricity grid works”, reports PEI.

Scotland-based company Faraday Grid has signed a deal with British distribution network operator UK Power Networks for it to trial its potentially ground-breaking technology, also called Faraday Grid.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said he recognised that “Faraday’s technology has the potential to be transformational for distribution networks and the wider energy system”.

The Faraday Grid is an autonomous, self-balancing network installed within an existing electricity grid. It comprises a network of independent autonomous hardware devices called Faraday Exchangers which operate in isolation and are independent of any central network management.

As such, the exchanger is designed to replace the function of existing electricity network infrastructure such as transformers, converters, inverters and rectifiers.

Faraday Grid says its technology “is designed to automatically smooth the intermittency and volatility of renewable generation and new demands like electric vehicles, and reduce the need for backup generation and balancing services. Implemented at scale, it has the potential to double the amount of renewable generation a grid can carry.”

Continued here.

Comments
  1. John says:

    I like the idea of autonomous units for an unmentioned reason, energy security.

    Seems to me that a lot of ‘chat’ about hacking into a country’s energy grid to disrupt and damage is negated with this technology.

  2. ivan says:

    It sounds like another very expensive scam that requires pixie dust to work – it might require a few unicorn farts to get it started.

    Short of having a nice large coal fired power station running on hot spinning standby there is no way that they can ‘fill in’ for when the wind doesn’t blow or blows too much. Yes, they may be able to smooth out the square wave or stepped square wave from wind generators and solar panels which would help the transformers on the real grid to work efficently but they can’t find electricity from nowhere.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Adding another layer of complexity to an already complex system is a risk in itself.

  4. spetzer86 says:

    Maybe they mean the lines carry a higher percentage of renewable energy after dark, preferably in windless conditions?

  5. Curious George says:

    The secret ingredient is dilithium. It uses future solar power to provide electricity tonight.

  6. dai davies says:

    All I can find is fact-free PR hype.
    The reference to Farday initially suggested new electrical technology – super efficient AC/DC converters or something, perhaps.
    Subtext is “all this stuff you hear about problems of intermittency is about to disappear.”
    Nothing but a delaying diversion.

    “Adding another layer of complexity to an already complex system is a risk in itself.”
    Untested complexity at that. Only after some other fool country has tested it – perhaps.

  7. dai davies says:

    Missed the Greentechmedia:

    “Transformers typically come with a 30-year lifespan, Scobie said, but many operators have delayed investments and now face a replacement backlog.”

    So nothing immediate except for those that are desperate:

    “Some of the first units will be tested at the 350-megawatt Gympie solar plant planned for Australia next year, which will be paired with 4 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery storage.”

    A marriage of pixie dusts.

  8. Curious George says:

    From the company website:

    ANDREW SCOBIE, FOUNDER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    Andrew is an economist and systems designer.

    MATTHEW WILLIAMS, FOUNDER, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
    Matthew is a systems architect, mechatronic engineer, and design leader and facilitator.

    Faraday Grid use a robust design methodology, developed by its founders, called Design by Rationalised Constraint (DbRC). This has enabled us to truly understand problems, and then work from fundamentals to define the area within the constraints in which the optimal design solution must exist.

    In late 2016 our founders moved all the way from Australia to sunny Edinburgh…
    I thought that this was a joke, but it looks as serious as all the rest.

  9. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Their website says that the Faraday ‘exchangers’ replace existing transformers and cost STG 6000 each. I don’t know what size transformers they are talking about, but STG 6000 won’t buy a very big grid transformer – maybe powering a couple of hundred homes max? And these ‘exchangers’ are electronic not passive, so they are likely IMO to be about 10-100 times more prone to failure than the traditional transformer. One commenter, Dai Davies, quotes from a ‘news’ article which says ‘“Some of the first units will be tested at the 350-megawatt Gympie solar plant planned for Australia next year, which will be paired with 4 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery storage.”. Based on the above, a whole lot of these ‘exchangers’ will be needed for a project this size. The whole thing smells like a huge boondoggle to me. But I have been known to be wrong…

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ve read the article, the article in the link, the web site of the maker. I’ve watch their video under “technology”. It says nothing about what it really is or does. It isn’t there to find. There demo video shows it basically cleaning up dirty power and adjusting voltage as a semiconductor power supply.

    Exactly how the Exchanger works is a closely guarded secret, although Faraday Grid has likened the technology to an internet router that adjusts power flows instead of data traffic.

    The Exchangers are intended to work together to cut grid losses by up to 15 percent and will be sold to electricity network operators as a replacement for traditional transformers.

    From what I can see of it, it’s an active filter and probably a large switched variable power supply.

    It can NOT fill in when there is insufficient power. It doesn’t store enough to matter.

    What it does do is clean up power factor and wave form (“noise”) and adjust volts.

    My best guess is that their (entirely hypothetical) “savings” of 15%” or less is estimated via turning lousy power factors into 1 and via keeping voltage at spec (or perhaps a bit below when short of power – but with stable PF, V & noise). Then they will be making the Great Leap to saying that’s just like having 15% more power available – except it isn’t when the wind stops at night.

    It is more like having 15% less load on a system that can still go to zero.

    Then they talk about having them communicate and decide who’s willing to pay for power at a given moment. OK, that sure sounds like they think this thing will be talking to “smart homes” and cars and taking a vote tally, then informing “upstream” they want so much power; then upstream says “we don’t have it at that price, but at 2 x” and it “renegotiates” with your “smart devices” until the market clears. Fine and all… except:

    There’s not enough IdiOT devices out there to make a difference and will not be for decades. I’m not buying a new dishwasher, cloths washer & dryer, 3 x TVs, and house full of lamps, and fridge just to please them. Neither will millions of others. So most of these “devices” will just keep bidding up until power is delivered. Again, not going to work on cold windless nights.

    Do they really think downtown London or Sydney is going to go dark on cold windless nights just to balance the grid? That skyscrapers blinking on and off as the wind gusts is going to cut it?

    They will still have a large % fixed demand and a too small baseload generation – somebody gets shafted.

    It looks like it can clean up the lousy power factor issues from all the semiconductor stuff and even the horrible noise on lines from so many switched power supplies. (Place a small portable AM radio next to CFL or LED bulbs or dimmer switches…)

    My guess is they expect one of these in place of each neighborhood transformer / capacitor set. Around the edge of the grid, not in the rest of it. Doing a power conditioning / bargaining / shutdown function. I doubt it will be a significant improvement over heavy duty transformers and capacitors.

    It will be much more sensitive to lightning strikes. I’d guess first time a set of wires get hit, all of these in a 2 mile radius blow out. Want to bet how long it will take to restore power when you need to exchange 10 of these things in one area?

    It is essentially a small computer with a switched wide volts input power supply and semiconductor (likely analog) output semiconductors. Like a giant version of the laptop power supplies that run on 50/60 Hz 110-240 VAC world wide but deliver a constant 18 VDC in any case. Just bigger and making AC out. We plug those things into surge protectors for a reason… and still a lot of them get fried in lightning storms…

    My guess is that it has a small battery in it somewhere, likely good for about 2 minutes, so it can ride out minor sags and dropouts; but any outage over a few minutes and it shuts down…

  11. Bitter@twisted says:

    If it sounds too good to be true….
    Fools and their money are soon parted.

  12. oldbrew says:

    It seems our commenters will take a lot of convincing about this 😉

  13. John, UK says:

    “The Faraday Grid is an autonomous, self-balancing network installed within an existing electricity grid. It comprises a network of independent autonomous hardware devices called Faraday Exchangers which operate in isolation and are independent of any central network management.”

    What could possibly go wrong? /sarc

  14. ivan says:

    It seems our commenters will take a lot of convincing about this

    oldbrew, is that very surprising when a lot of us are real scientists and engineers?

    In my 50+ years as an engineer I have yet to see a perpetual motion that really works. I’ve heard about a lot of them that have been over hyped and failed at any practical test. This ‘thing’ is about the same calibre – a very expensive, over hyped scam just like all the others. Just the sort of thing that appeals to ignorant politicians.

  15. oldbrew says:

    Decisions on how to run the National Grid should be made by themselves, not by politicians. But whispers in ears can never be ruled out…

  16. stpaulchuck says:

    like ivan says, this is just another perpetual motion machine
    until I see a working version on a megawatt line I’m not buying any, thank you

  17. oldbrew says:

    StP – hence the trial 🙂

  18. tom0mason says:

    From what E.M Smith says and the little other information about this “Faraday Grid trial could “redefine the electricity grid””, indeed it could with “Exchangers are intended to work together to cut grid losses by up to 15 percent and will be sold to electricity network operators as a replacement for traditional transformers. ”
    So a distributed system of many parts has more overall efficiency than one of fewer but lossier parts? Unless they’ve invented the perfect device, there will be losses in each node of this distributed system, and these individual losses will add to the overall loss of the grid system. Could these losses be less than the ~15% of current losses it is expected to save — that’s unknown but could be so at any instant.
    However as more variable generation enters the market then this distributed grid control system and its inherent losses will rise as they will be called-on to make evermore adjustments.
    But not to worry as the customer (via electricity network operators) will be paying for it on a moment-by-moment variable tariff.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Next-up petrol (gas) to be sold on a bucket-to-bucket distribution system with communications up and down the line (from refiner to vehicle owner), to ensure only the very product each customer wants eventually arrives at the negotiated price.
    With this new distribution/marketing system, refiners will enjoy an improved distribution efficiency to petrol (gas) stations at a cost the customer can only just afford.

  19. dai davies says:

    “… that sure sounds like they think this thing will be talking to “smart homes” and cars …”
    Sure does. Demand/choice management and price gouging by stealth.

  20. hunter says:

    Vague promises? ✔️
    No specifics?✔️
    Huge claims?✔️
    Dubious mechanisms?✔️
    Typical green scam? Likely.

  21. hunter says:

    Hmm…
    Perhaps some of these developers have graduated from cold fusion promoting?
    Same pattern of vague promises.
    Same fact free complex explanations.
    Only with the dupes being told it will be a way to save wind power, the government decision makers have huge incentives, and money, to act on their motivated beliefs.

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