New energy solution will maximise the health of the power-grid’s heart

Researchers from Trinity’s School of Physics have developed a next-gen solution to monitor and maximise the efficiency of power provision via the transformers that function as the ‘heart of the grid’ for billions of people across the globe.

Most power grids are divided into three sections: Generation, where power plants and large-scale wind farms generate electricity; Transmission, where high voltage electricity is transmitted long distances across the country (operated by Eirgrid in Ireland); and Distribution, where the voltage is stepped down to households (operated by ESB Networks in Ireland).

Key to this entire process are the power transformers – there are around 20,000 on the ground and a further 230,000 mounted on poles in Ireland alone – through which the current flows every time you boil your kettle to make a cup of tea or power up the hoover to clean your house. The demand for power rises and falls depending on the time of day and season, and the profile of this demand is changing.

New technologies such as electric vehicles and solar panels mean that most power companies are operating according to outdated models in terms of managing their resources.

That can now change as the Trinity researchers’ product enables suppliers to take a proactive approach to safeguarding the power grid instead of a reactive one when an unstable grid can leave thousands of customers without power. Additionally, it will make both live and historical usage data more readily available so that upgrades and new connections can be planned more wisely.   

Research Fellow in the School of Physics, Barry Murphy, is one of six people working on the project. He said: “The value of electricity flowing through each of Ireland’s transformers can be up to €5million per year, but utility operators have very little data on them – often only a single dial that is checked at most a couple of times per year.”

Research Fellow Barry Murphy, from the School of Physics,Trinity.

Barry Murphy added: “Our product will give operators the insights they need to make informed decisions and enable a more effective rollout of renewable and low-carbon technologies, and they will also allow people to feed electricity back into the grid. Power grids differ in their setup all over the world, but most are facing this same problem and our solution will be of use to all of them.”

The team has had its custom-designed units on trial on real ESB Networks assets since December last year and is set to launch as a company in the next few months. For more information, see  

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