Pioneering technology set to help remote Northumberland village overcome power cuts
An innovative new project is set to provide a more robust electricity supply to a remote Northumberland village.
Northern Powergrid is to pilot a smart-grid programme to help keep the lights on in the forest village of Byrness, close to the Scottish border.
With its 50 homes and the smallest church in the county, Byrness is the last point of habitation on the Pennine Way.
Here, in a landscape populated by roe deer and red squirrels, the electricity network snakes its way to the end of its route via a single overhead power line.
The vulnerability of this section of the network to high winds and storms frequently threatens the power supply to the village.
Equally, delivering a back-up generator can be challenging during snow or flash floods.
The pioneering technology will also be put to use on sites of critical infrastructure such as the iconic Swing Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead.
The £2.5m programme, known as Microresilience, will use energy storage systems and innovative communications technology to keep customers connected to power.
In a power cut – for example, if a branch falls on the line in a storm or a heat wave causes a fault – Microresilience will switch Byrness customers from the local network to a 200kWh back-up battery, maintaining a seamless connection to power without so much as a blip.
Wi-Fi will stay on, mobiles will keep charging, and customers will remain connected to power.
For vulnerable customers or those medically dependent on electricity, this technology will provide additional reassurance during the time it takes for engineers to find and fix faults to restore their power. In a major power cut, customers will be alerted that they are ‘on battery’ and urged to conserve power until a generator can be delivered.
A spokesman for Rochester with Byrness Parish Council said: “The parish councillors and Byrness residents are excited about the improvements this will bring to the resilience of the network in locations prone to supply fluctuation.”
Iain Miller, head of innovation at Northern Powergrid, said: “We work constantly to find innovative ways to improve our network and protect our customers from a power cut. This Microresilience project offers a blueprint to deliver the most reliable, affordable, and sustainable power possible for the parts of our network that need it the most.”