The OpenLV Project is trialling an open software platform in electricity substations that can monitor substation performance and electricity demand. This will host applications provided by a diverse set of developers, such as community groups, businesses and universities, providing a variety of services to network operators, communities and the wider industry.
As part of the OpenLV project, the software will be installed in 80 Low Voltage (LV) distribution substations located in Western Power Distribution’s (WPD’s) licence areas – the Midlands, the South West and South Wales. The software could ultimately be deployed in every LV and High Voltage (HV) substation in Great Britain.
The project will use three methods to demonstrate the platform’s ability to provide benefits to the network owner, customers, and service providers.
1: Improving the capacity of the local electricity network
The software platform will perform measurements and control within the substation and will allow the substation to ‘mesh’ with other substations to increase capacity, or release capacity through active management of the local electricity network via new software applications (apps), if required. This will also improve system security, as temporary load issues can be mitigated by meshing substations until the demand decreases. By doing this, it will reduce the need for network reinforcement and will therefore save money for customers through reduced network operator costs.
2: Community benefit
The software platform can be used to provide data about the local electricity network to customers or groups of customers. The project will work with community groups to understand whether apps can be developed and installed that they can benefit from.
3: Development of apps
Third party companies will be able to develop and release their own apps for the platform to provide benefit to the operator and customers. EA Technology will provide the base API (Application Programming Interface) to work from.
The availability of data from substations along with the open software platform will help to create new economic opportunities and enable the transition to more actively managed local electricity networks.
Benefits of the project
The OpenLV project will deliver the following benefits to:
1) End customers,
3) Third party developers and
4) Platform providers.
End customers include households, small/medium businesses, etc. The benefits envisaged are:
- Negotiating power: visibility of aggregate demand and ability to use this to strike better deals with energy suppliers
- Market access: a platform for the provision of services to DNOs/TSOs
- Reduced DUoS payments: resulting from improvements made by the DNO; and
- Reduced connection costs: allows the LV customer to connect new forms of generation or demand in a more flexible way.
DNO benefits envisaged are:
- Direct cost reduction: the use of a standardised single platform rather than multiple overlaying solutions; economies of scale in procurement; and
- Improved flexibility: i.e. a platform rolled out for monitoring can later be used to control the LV network, limiting the risk of stranded assets.
Third party developers
Third party developer would include anyone (from sole trader to corporate entity, amateur to academic) capable of creating an app. The benefits envisaged are:
- Direct payment: third party gets paid every time their app is commercially deployed on a substation platform
- Reduced barriers to entry: the developer does not have the responsibility or costs to provide the enabling platform or infrastructure – only the software app.
Platform provider(s) benefits envisaged are:
- Hardware deployment: payment for every unit rolled out in a substation
- App ‘store’ administration: payment by third party to manage apps; potentially also from end users to tailor apps for substations/community groups.
Financial benefits of the project
The financial benefits of the OpenLV project are estimated to be:
Method 1 (Improving the capacity of the local electricity network): £120m
Method 2 (Community benefit): £177m
Method 3 (Development of apps): £298m
The project cost is £5m
This gives a benefit ratio of 123:1
Capacity benefits of the project
Once fully deployed, the roll-out of the three methods across Britain could unlock 5827MW of capacity to support the electrification of heat and transport.
To put this into context, a power station such as Heysham 1 (nuclear, advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) type) has 1150 MW capacity.
Therefore the capacity that the OpenLV project could unlock is equivalent to 5 x Heysham 1 Nuclear power stations.