Key Innovation Projects

Innovation is happening right across the system and we want to work with innovators to see how new technologies can enhance the power system of the future. We are involved in a range of exciting projects that are at the interface between the user and the system.

A photo-montage of proposed 220kV composite poles

Composite poles

In 2020, EirGrid studied alternative supports to carry lines on the electricity grid in Ireland. Steel lattice pylons are often resisted because of visual impact, but wood poles are limited in the capacity they can reliably carry.

Finding a more visually acceptable structure would increase the options open to us when upgrading the grid or developing a new line. Composite poles have great potential in this regard. Made from composite materials like resin and fibreglass, they have been successfully adopted in other transmission and distribution systems.

EirGrid is currently investigating composite poles as a solution to uprate existing 110 kV lines to carry 220 kV. The benefits of this solution include an increase of up to four times as much power using an existing line route. This would be achieved with minimal visual impact, as composite poles are almost indistinguishable from wood poles. Composite poles also have ultraviolet (UV) protection – which means they don’t need preservative treatments or repainting. This offers significant operational savings and environmental benefits in their 80 years of predicted use.

In 2021 we will complete our studies and then expect to approve this technology for future use. We can then review the network to identify specific lines where we can implement upgrades to 220 kV using composite poles.

Power Flow Controller - Static Synchronous Series Compensation (SSSC)

SSSC is an innovative device that enables real-time power flow control on transmission grids.

Simply put, SSSCs make better use of spare capacity in parallel lines. The units work by increasing resistance on a power line. By increasing resistance they push power away from an overloaded line and effectively divert power flow onto a line that has spare capacity.

As power follows the path of least resistance, the end result of this technology is an increase in the amount of power that can be safely carried by a set of transmission lines. This means that EirGrid can make the most of the existing grid and respond flexibly to sudden changes in generation and demand.

The technology is a light and modular technology that can installed on towers, at substations or even on modular trailers making it rapidly deployable and re-deployable.

During 2020 research and investigation work was ongoing including a feasibility assessment, development of a functional specification and a procurement process for potential future ubiquitous deployment  of the technology. Following anticipated deployment on the transmission system, the solution would be subject to validation testing and then monitored for an extended period.

In 2020 we used SSSC models in our planning toolbox for future projects as part of the scenarios underpinning the Shaping Our Electricity Future consultation. Shaping Our Electricity Future is being developed in order to develop an integrated power system and market view of how best to achieve the 70% renewable energy from electricity by 2030.

Tower Voltage Uprate

New research and developments in electrical composite insulators has introduced the possibility of converting existing 220 kV lines to 400 kV lines by modifying existing lattice steel structures. In Ireland 220 kV single circuit lines form the backbone of the transmission grid with a relatively small amount of 400 kV lines. One innovative solution under investigation by EirGrid is increasing the transmission capacity by uprating 220 kV towers, by redesigning the top portion of the towers with an alternative configuration to accommodate 400 kV electrical clearances. This technology maximises the use of the existing assets and rights of way by increasing power capacity by over 80%.

Closed projects

Power Off & Save

Power Off and Save is a pilot programme that rewards customers who agree to reduce their energy usage when electricity demand is high. EirGrid developed the Power Off and Save programme in partnership with Electric Ireland, who were awarded the contract to provide the service to EirGrid based on the open tender competition in late 2015. For more information on Power Off and Save, please click here.

Schwundgrad Energie

In Co Offaly, a flywheel-battery pilot project is underway. Approximately 40 jobs were provided in the construction phase of the pilot project. The objective of the project is to use an integrated flywheel and battery solution to provide System Services.

Kelwin Project

The aim of the Kelwin project is to develop a 37MW wind farm in Co Kerry which incorporates novel devices to provide System Services. Each turbine will have an integrated battery and the project will test how these batteries can be used to capture and store excess energy, and then provide it back to the grid as needed. In addition to producing energy, the project will produce valuable learnings in relation to the use of energy storage.