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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T001232/1
Title: DC networks, power quality and plant reliability
Principal Investigator: Rowland, Professor SM
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ABB National Grid Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
Scottish Power
Department: Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2019 Ends: 31 January 2023 Value (£): 727,155
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Electric Motor & Drive Systems Sustainable Energy Networks
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics Energy
Related Grants:
EP/T001623/1 EP/T001445/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Jun 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 11 and 12 June 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The movement of electrical energy from generators to customers, through electricity networks, has historically been based on High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) technology. This has been a major success of the twentieth century, enabling reliable and stable energy supplies across the developed world. The technology dominated partly as a result of the ability to change voltage levels readily and efficiently using transformers. The alternative technology of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) has historically only been used for point-to-point links because of particular advantages in this situation. Now however, with the advent of power electronics, utilisation of HVDC systems is rapidly increasing across the world. This has been accelerated with the growth of renewable distributed energy supplies, such as offshore wind farms in the UK. As a result, local and international energy supplies are becoming dependent on HVDC. Consequently, the reliability of DC technologies is becoming critical as they become more embedded in supply networks. However, in comparison to AC systems, the understanding of insulation and plant reliability under HVDC is still in its infancy. At the same time, the working environment for DC plant is not well documented and, in reality, DC systems have AC ripple, impulses and voltage variation just as in any other system, and these time-varying waveforms are likely to control plant ageing and reliability.

This project comprises internationally leading researchers from The University of Manchester, The University of Strathclyde and Imperial College. They bring complementary expertise to form a unique team to address the problem. Prof Tim Green (Imperial) is an expert in the use of power electronics to enhance the controllability and flexibility of electricity networks; Prof Simon Rowland (Manchester) is an authority on ageing of high voltage insulation materials; and Prof Brian Steward (Strathclyde) has unique experience in condition monitoring and insulation diagnostics for high voltage systems. The project is designed to embed the work into the global community and in particular is linked to researchers in China where the largest systems are being developed.

This project will firstly identify the voltage profiles experienced by plant insulation in a real HVDC network or link, because in real systems the voltage on the network is not a constant, fixed value. The power converters that feed a DC network create intrinsic "noise" in the form of high frequency elements as part of their normal operation, and also create voltage disturbances in their responses to fault conditions and emergency overloads. Characterising these is the first step in the overall study of how DC power quality impacts the lifetime of HV insulation. The team will then, through laboratory exploration, develop life models for polymeric insulation subject to known levels of DC power quality. The focus will be on AC ripple over a wide frequency range. In addition, the influence of fast transient signals of varying levels and durations will be considered, as identified above. The third experimental theme is to develop tools for monitoring transient signals and power quality in a real DC cable setting, and enable subsequent interpretation. Finally, we will develop input for utility policy documents on acceptable DC power quality. We will also provide evidence for optimal insulation design for equipment manufacturers and asset management recommendations for utilities.

Through these means we hope to de-risk the UK's growing dependence on DC networks, and optimise equipment and system design and operation.

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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk