ABB’s synchronous condensers go live in Liverpool to stabilize the UK’s power grid

ABB’s synchronous condensers go live in Liverpool to stabilize the UK’s power grid

•   Drive for net-zero electricity is reducing the level of spinning inertia vital for the stable operation of power grids
•   Lister Drive Greener Grid Park is key element in broader UK scheme to restore inertia lost when five coal-fired power stations are decommissioned, saving consumers around $122m
•   ABB’s high-inertia combination of synchronous condensers and flywheels, a world first, will provide about one percent of the UK’s inertia requirement

ABB has completed a major turnkey project for Statkraft, Europe’s largest renewable power generator, to help restore the missing system inertia vital for the stable operation of the UK power grid. This is essential as the country switches from fossil fuels to use more renewable energy such as wind and solar. The project features two ABB high-inertia synchronous condenser systems installed at the Lister Drive Greener Grid Park in Liverpool. They are now operational and supplying around one percent of the UK’s projected inertia requirement for 2025.

Traditionally, fossil-fuel powered turbines have provided the spinning inertia vital to maintain stable power networks. Now they are being decommissioned, so the inertia in the grid is decreasing. Innovative solutions like Greener Grid Parks are part of a broader scheme to restore the inertia that would be provided by five coal-fired power stations, saving UK consumers around $122 million over six years.

Aerial view of the Lister Drive Greener Grid Park. ABB's Synchronous Condensers and flywheels are situated in the grey structures. Photo courtesy of Statkraft.
Aerial view of the Lister Drive Greener Grid Park. ABB's Synchronous Condensers and flywheels are situated in the grey structures. Photo courtesy of Statkraft.
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Synchronous condensers are large rotating machines that mimic the operation of coal or gas fired generators to provide an alternative source of spinning inertia. They have been deployed by ABB to reinforce power networks in many projects worldwide. However, Lister Drive is the first project anywhere in the world to feature a high-inertia configuration that couples a synchronous condenser with a 40 tonne flywheel. This approach increases the instantaneously available inertia by 3.5 times to ensure the network frequency and voltage are held stable within the tight limits essential to maintain grid reliability.

ABB's Pony Motor (left), Flywheel (middle) and Synchronous Condenser (right)
ABB's Pony Motor (left), Flywheel (middle) and Synchronous Condenser (right)
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Heikki Vepsäläinen, Division President of ABB Large Motors and Generators, said “Decarbonization of power generation is a vital element in the world’s journey to net-zero. Our challenge is to achieve this ambition while maintaining stable and reliable power networks. This is where synchronous condensers are set to play a key role. So, we are delighted to have worked with Statkraft on this ground-breaking project that is already demonstrating how innovative technology can address the inertia challenge.”

The ABB high-inertia synchronous condenser systems were manufactured in Sweden and installed by ABB UK’s engineering team.  To ensure round-the-clock availability for this vital system, Statkraft has signed a 10-year contract with ABB for planned and fast response maintenance services. A full suite of ABB Ability™ digital condition monitoring solutions are now deployed to optimize performance and predict maintenance needs. By assessing real-time data with cloud-based analysis, the team can plan corrective actions before issues occur, ensuring system reliability.

Statkraft is a leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. The Group produces hydropower, wind power, solar power, gas-fired power and supplies district heating. Statkraft is a global company in energy market operations. Statkraft has 5300 employees in 21 countries.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a technology leader in electrification and automation, enabling a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. The company’s solutions connect engineering know-how and software to optimize how things are manufactured, moved, powered and operated. Building on more than 130 years of excellence, ABB’s ~105,000 employees are committed to driving innovations that accelerate industrial transformation.

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