n ten short years, the global en-
ergy landscape has changed pro-
foundly. Continued international
focus on climate change and its im-
pacts has seen the march towards
the energy transition intensify. Cou-
ple this with positive regulation and
policy changes across the world,
growth in renewables, and further
development of innovative technol-
ogy, and thankfully we are now on
an unstoppable trajectory which will
see several major nations reach net
zero by 2050. As the energy transi-
tion gathers pace, the question has
changed from “when” will it be
achieved, to “how”.
The increased adoption of innova-
tive, grid enhancing technologies
(GETs) will be key to meeting the
commitments and targets laid out by
the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Generating ‘green electrons’, or re-
newable energy, is of course a core
component of the energy transition,
but so is the ability to move clean
energy effectively and efciently
from source to demand – meaning
the grid, or electricity network, must
be an enabler rather than a barrier.
The current grid was designed for
large-scale, centralised fossil fuel
power generation, not intermittent
renewable generation of varying-size
and distribution. Energy generation
and demand patterns are shifting,
and so too must the grid. In order to
unlock the energy transition, the grid
must operate differently. The good
news is that there is actually a fair bit
of exibility and capacity that can be
extracted from today’s grid.
Grid enhancing technologies, such
as power ow control, dynamic line
rating, topology optimisation and
others, are poised to be absolutely
critical in transforming the existing
grid, and in doing so, unlocking and
maximising its capacity.
A recent Brattle Group report
found that grid enhancing technolo-
gies can allow more than double the
volume of renewable generators to
connect to the grid – compared to the
status quo approach over the next
ve years. These investments could
be implemented in less than one year
and would pay for themselves in six
Modular Power Flow Control
(MPFC) is one such technology that
is gaining huge global traction.
Smart Wires has developed a MPFC
technology, known as SmartValve,
which is the next logical step in the
progression of FACTS (Flexible
Alternating Current Transmission
System). It enables system operators
to control power ows in the net-
work by adjusting transmission line
reactance in real-time. Essentially,
this intelligent hardware causes
power to be pushed off overloaded
lines or pulled onto under-utilised
lines causing power to ow where
there is spare capacity, and maximis-
ing the full use of the grid.
As the ow of renewable energy
increases, the MPFC technology can
automatically activate to balance
power ows, boosting the amount of
energy the grid can transfer.
This is essential to enabling signi-
cantly larger amounts of renewable
energy to enter the system, and im-
portantly reduces the need for new
transmission lines maximising the
use of what is already there.
As distinct from legacy forms of
power ow control, SmartValve is a
modular, digital solution which
means it is quick and exible to in-
stall and easy to scale or relocate.
This exibility and adaptability is in-
credibly valuable when generation,
load, and the evolution of the grid it-
self are highly uncertain.
Greece’s Independent Power Trans-
mission Operator (IPTO) deployed
MPFC in a containerised mobile unit
parked inside a substation, to accel-
erate renewable integration in a rela-
tively constrained portion of the grid.
IPTO installed the mobile MPFC
technology on one of two 150 kV
parallel single-circuit overhead lines,
to increase the lines impedance – re-
ducing loading on this particular line
by 17 per cent.
A key benet of the mobile MPFC
is to resolve short-term or near-term
issues. In this case, the mobile
MPFC provided a short-term solu-
tion until a new line came into ser-
vice. This rapidly deployable and re-
deployable solution is also often
used for managing operational con-
straints, such as enabling outage
windows for critical construction and
maintenance works.
Historically, it takes years to get
transmission projects completed,
even simple ones. The mobile MPFC
solution can be delivered in a few
months and installed within a matter
of days, allowing utilities to respond
much faster to the needs of genera-
tors, customers and communities. As
it is mobile, it is fully re-deployable
and can be reused many times at dif-
ferent voltage levels across the grid.
After several months on the Greek
system, the unit was moved to the
Bulgarian transmission system,
where it is also being leveraged to
improve renewable integration and
cross-border electricity ows. Instal-
lation of the technology, which took
just 2.5 days, was a joint project be-
tween the Bulgarian Transmission
System Operator (TSO), Electricity
System Operator (ESO), and Smart
Wires, as part of FLEXITRANS-
TORE – a European Union Horizon
2020 consortium. The mobile power
ow control solution was installed in
northeast Bulgaria, where 750 MW
of wind generation is installed.
In the UK, a substation-based de-
ployment of Smart Wires’ MPFC
freed up 95 MW of additional net-
work capacity by installing the tech-
nology on two lines within the UK
Power Networks distribution system.
This work resolved a critical pinch
point near the Essex/Suffolk border
and allowed more electricity generat-
ed from renewable sources to feed
into the system – without building
costly and disruptive new electrical
cabling and substations.
In just a year, UK Power Networks
saved customers £8 million, and en-
abled enough renewable power to
run 45 000 homes to safely connect
to a previously constrained point in
the local electricity network.
Further north in the UK, National
Grid (NGET) recently deployed the
world’s rst large-scale use of the
technology, enabling an extra 1.5
GW extra capacity on its existing
NGET is installing SmartValve on
ve circuits at three of its substations
in the North of England, which
makes 500 MW of new network ca-
pacity available in each region. The
sites, at Harker in Carlisle, Pen-
wortham in Preston and Saltholme in
Stockton-on-Tees near Middles-
brough, were identied as needing a
solution to solve bottlenecks of
north-to-south renewable power
ows. Installing modular power ow
controllers at these sites allows
NGET to provide National Grid’s
Electricity System Operator with the
tools to quickly reduce the conges-
tion that limits renewable generation,
with minimal impact on communi-
ties and the environment.
Following these initial installations
at the three sites, National Grid is
looking to extend the capability at
Harker and Penwortham in the Euro-
pean autumn. This could mean free-
ing up an additional 500 MW of ca-
pacity, enough to power more than
300 000 homes. The scale of this
project is unprecedented, as are the
benets to National Grid. The cost
and environmental savings involved
are immense: 1.5 GW of extra ca-
pacity is enough renewable energy to
power 1 000 000 homes, clearly sup-
porting the UK’s net zero ambitions.
Elsewhere, Slovenian Transmission
System Operator ELES and Smart
Wires are collaborating on a project
that will see ELES’ dynamic line rat-
ing (DLR) technology combine with
Smart Wires’ MPFC. The two tech-
nologies offer compelling synergies.
DLR can identify which lines have
available capacity and power ow
controllers can then intelligently
route power to those lines.
The companies anticipate a series
of collaborative ventures on different
sites. ELES’ part of the collaboration
will be managed by its recently
launched member company Operato,
focused solely on the implementa-
tion of SUMO DTR (dynamic ther-
mal rating) technology.
SUMO DTR technology cost-ef-
ciently monitors and predicts weath-
er conditions along the whole line to
calculate a transmission line’s real-
time rating. By using SUMO DTR’s
real-time ratings, transmission opera-
tors can use higher line ratings with-
out endangering safety or reliability.
Since some circuits reach their
maximum rating while others are
well below their limits, balancing
power ows can eliminate con-
straints and improve network trans-
fers, which is where Smart Wires’
MPFC comes in to push power off
lines that are overloaded or pull
power onto lines with spare capacity.
Combining these rapidly installed
and low environmental impact tech-
nologies is the next logical step in
grid innovation as our industry facili-
tates the energy transition.
Innovative, grid enhancing technol-
ogies are providing the industry with
incredibly exible and high-impact
solutions, which are ultimately deliv-
ering faster, cheaper and better ways
to plan and operate power systems.
It’s this type of holistic thinking
and a use of multi-pronged ap-
proaches that we need to accelerate
an affordable energy transition.
The transition is upon us, a critical
evolution of technology and behav-
iour, and as Charles Darwin, the
champion of evolution, so eloquently
said: It is not the strongest or the
most intelligent who will survive but
those who can best manage change.
Michael Walsh is Chief Commercial
Ofcer at Smart Wires.
Technology Focus
Grid enhancing
technologies are key
to the success of the
energy transition.
Smart Wires
has developed a
Modular Power Flow
Control technology,
also known as
SmartValve, that
allows power to
ow where there is
spare capacity, thus
maximising the use of
the grid.
Michael Walsh
Driving the green electron
Driving the green electron
SmartValve is a modular,
transformerless static
synchronous series
compensator, with an
integrated fast-acting bypass
and exible installation and
control. Intelligent hardware
causes power to be pushed
off overloaded lines or pulled
onto under-utilised lines