Lightsource BP pioneers UK’s first night-time solar service

Source: press release, 25 November 2019

In a successful plant trial, Lightsource BP used one of its solar plants in East Sussex to provide a reactive power voltage support service at night
In a successful plant trial, Lightsource BP used one of its solar plants in East Sussex to provide a reactive power voltage support service at night (illustration: BP)

Lightsource BP, one of the global frontrunners in the funding, development and long-term operation of solar projects, has become the first company in the UK to provide a reactive power service from a solar plant at night.

Reactive power is the ability to maintain voltage levels on electricity transmission systems. This allows more energy to be transported down existing infrastructure and therefore increases capacity without the need for infrastructure upgrades. Inverters within a solar plant are able to provide reactive power by reducing or increasing voltage levels. They can deliver the voltage change necessary at a grid supply point, which is managed by National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO).

In a successful plant trial, which took place on Monday 4th November, Lightsource BP used one of its solar plants in East Sussex to provide a reactive power voltage support service at night. The reactive power service was delivered through UK Power Networks’ distribution network and has the potential to help National Grid ESO manage voltage on the transmission network.

The test was coordinated with UK Power Networks’ control engineers who monitored to ensure network safety and reliability with no adverse customer impact.

National Grid ESO confirmed that this is the first night-time grid support service from a solar asset in the UK.

The trial follows 3 years of testing and development and forms part of the joint National Grid ESO and UK Power Networks “Power Potential” project, which aims to create a new reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DERs) in the South East. Lightsource BP worked with UK Power Networks and National Grid ESO on Power Potential to deliver this important milestone in an initiative which has the potential to save UK energy customers over GBP 400m by 2050 and provide up to an additional 4 GW of power capacity in the South East region of the UK.

Kareen Boutonnat, Lightsource BP Chief Operating Officer, comments, “The success of this trial clearly demonstrates that innovation is key in addressing the future growth of the energy sector. With electricity demand increasing so rapidly we have to be in a constant state of evolution in order to solve the problems of the future.”

“Right now, we have proven that solar plants can play a larger role across the electricity network – even at night. However, it is only the beginning and as our team continue to develop and support this project, we will remain focused on pushing the boundaries and forging partnerships to remain a leading innovator across our sector,” adds Boutonnat.

Dr Biljana Stojkovska, National Grid Electricity System Operator, Power Potential Project lead comments: “As we move towards our 2025 ambition of being able to operate the GB electricity system carbon free we are seeing more renewable generation come online – such as wind and solar – which in turn requires finding new ways of managing system characteristics like voltage. This innovative trial, which forms part of our Power Potential project, is an exciting first step. We look forward to seeing it progress over the coming months as we explore new reactive power markets for distributed energy resources, and their potential to cut costs for energy consumers.”

Dr Rita Shaw, UK Power Networks, Power Potential Project lead says, “We are delighted to have successfully supported Lightsource BP to facilitate the participation of its solar plant in our reactive power trials. It is one of many examples of innovative collaboration with our distribution connected generation customers, in building the foundations for our Distribution System Operator (DSO) transition.”