ScottishPower achieves ‘pioneering world first’ after blackout boost from wind farm

The energy company said its successful project at Dersalloch wind farm in South Ayrshire proves wind power can restore a ‘blacked-out’ section of the transmission network

Big Zero Report 2022

ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) claims to have achieved a “pioneering world-first” after using electricity from an onshore wind farm to re-energise part of the power grid.

The energy company said its successful project at Dersalloch wind farm in South Ayrshire proves wind power can restore a “blacked-out” section of the transmission network.

“Black start” restoration – the name given to the procedure used to restore power in the event of a total or partial shutdown of the electricity transmission system – is often reliant on traditional fossil fuel like coal and gas.

It adds using renewables to do this is “not just an extraordinary achievement but a pioneering world-first” that has the potential to transform how power could be restored to the network.

SPR worked in collaboration with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), which deployed the latest technology at the wind farm, as well as SP Energy Networks (SPEN), when it was time to interact with the grid.

The ‘grid-forming’ technology called virtual synchronous machines (VSM) regulated the frequency and voltage of the power from the turbines, essentially forming a stable network island, to keep the electricity system stable and balanced.

The technology was then used to integrate that supply with the grid and restore the part of the system that had been blacked out.

The project was supported by the Scottish Government, with £550,000 in funding through our Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.

Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Over the past decade Scotland has delivered huge success in decarbonising the electrical energy generated in Scotland, with renewable electricity delivering the equivalent of more than 90% of the power needed to meet Scotland’s demand for electricity in 2019. It is important that wind farms, which provided 73% of Scotland’s renewable electricity generation, don’t only provide zero carbon energy, but can also deliver the technical services that older, now-closed power stations would have provided for the grid to deliver an effective ‘black start’ recovery in the event of a major power cut.

“Now Dersalloch has achieved a world first in proving that a wind farm can deliver vital ‘black start’ services in the event of a wider power blackout and this is a crucial step in ensuring that we can deliver timely recovery times from any such incident should it occur while helping underpin a sustainable security of supply of electricity in Scotland as we move towards an energy system that is consistent with net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.”

Lindsay McQuade, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables added the achievement at Dersalloch highlights the crucial role renewables will play in creating a decarbonised, modern and smart electricity system and is a “fantastic example” of collaboration and innovation.

She said: “As wind is now the cheapest form of electricity generation, innovating our wind farms to be responsive zero-carbon power stations that enhance the network, improve system resilience and help deliver the cleaner and greener future needed to achieve net zero makes sense.”

SPR will continue to work with SGRE to ensure VSM technology becomes a permanent feature, complemented by battery storage to help better meet the flexibility requirements of the network.

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