Coordinating research in energy networks

Future Assets

The Future of Assets and their Management

Significant investment in electricity networks will be required in the transition to a low carbon future. However this new construction will be dwarfed by the existing asset base. To maintain a reliable network, equipment that was generally installed during the 1960s and ?70s must continue to perform well and be fully utilised; including when worked more flexibly and intensively than previously.

Some of the challenging requirements, such as reduced energy loss and plant size, will require significant progress in technologies. Novel insulation systems will be needed, offering a combination of high dielectric strength, temperature performance and thermal conductivity. Similarly, compact superconducting and DC systems may be needed in urban areas to increase power density.

The two areas of research being address by HubNet in this theme are The Future of Assets and Managing the Transition of old assets into the modern network.

The Opportunities

The work on Managing the Transition will assist in developing a new generation of asset management strategies geared around the longer-term network needs, and links directly to the systems activity of HubNet consortium.

The Future of Assets concerns technical solutions to the limitations of existing materials for reducing plant size, HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) systems and high temperature superconductors, for example, which are key to developing radical changes to asset and system solutions.

Links into HubNet?s power electronics work, and UK Research Councils? Network Top and Tail Grand Challenge are also in place. Early identification of opportunities for plant development and management are key to recognising advantages at the system level.

Activity being undertaken

Position papers in this area are being written. The first considers the present use of condition monitoring tools in UK networks. This will be followed by the presentation of a future view called ?Beyond Traditional Asset Management?. Opportunities for High Energy Density, Low-Loss Network Plant will be considered shortly in which the opportunities to break free of the existing trade-off between high utilisation and low loss will be identified.

Research work is focusing on:

  • Integration of primary and secondary plant for optimisation of asset and network performance
  • Low loss and high energy density assets
  • Long distance AC and DC cable systems
  • Delivering advanced monitoring, diagnosis and prognosis in transition to the Smart Grid
  • Nano-modification of material interfaces
  • Predictive models to provide early warning of faults within medium voltage cable accessories
  • Geophysical parameters that affect heat transfer from a subsea buried High Voltage (HV) cable
  • Increased utilisation of overhead lines for more efficient smart networks

The theme is led by Prof Simon Rowland (University of Manchester) and Prof Paul Lewin (University of Southampton). In addition to Profs Rowland and Lewin, Dr Vic Catterson (University of Strathclyde), Dr James Pilgrim (University of Southampton) and Dr Kostas Kopsidas (University of Manchester) are active in this theme.

The image above shows electrical treeing round a barrier in a dielectric 2mm thick.