An award-winning spin-out from The University of Manchester, which is helping energy transmission and distribution companies to increase network flexibility and capacity, has undertaken its first installation on the operational UK transmission network.
Following a successful testing and development programme, six of Arago’s 132kV revolutionary Insulating Cross-Arms (ICAs) are now fitted to electricity pylons on the Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission network near Aberdeen. The project was funded through IFI (which is regulated by Ofgem).
The technology is contributing to helping meet the global need to increase electricity transmission capacity as demand increases and energy is decarbonised through increased electrification. It enables electricity network operators to address transmission bottlenecks by increasing the power capacity of existing lines or by building new lines with smaller and less obtrusive towers than with existing technology. In all cases, the visual and environmental impact on areas of outstanding natural beauty and populated areas is reduced.
The technology has been developed over the past 5 years by University of Manchester electrical engineers Professors Ian Cotton and Simon Rowland in a joint venture with EPL Composite Solutions Limited. Financial and industry support to aid the commercialisation of the technology was provided through Ofgem Innovation Funding from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE Transmission) and National Grid Electricity Transmission (NG) with additional funding recently awarded by a number of investors including MTI’sUMIP Premier Fund (UPF).
Prototype ICAs hadpreviouslybeen installed for over 2 years on pylons in some of the most exposed areas of the UK to test their resistance to extreme weather.Since May 2012,ICAs have also been continuously energised and monitored at voltages required for the 400kV transmission network at a coastal test site in northern Scotland.
The technology,which won the Power/Energy category at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Awards in 2012,is a prime example of the successful commercialisation of world-leading University research to industry, and in this instance was facilitated by the University’s technology transfer office, UMIP.
Stewart Reid, Future Networks Manager at SHE Transmission said:"Successful operational deployment of six insulating cross-arms on our 132kV transmission line further extends our confidence in this technology. We expect that over the coming years the new cross-arms will provide us with a method to increase transmission capacity through voltage up-rating on some existing transmission lines. They could also, in suitable situations, provide a cost-effective option for building new overhead lines with reduced tower height with resulting reduced visual impact in the construction of these lines. We are pleased that this joint development between the University of Manchester and SHE Transmission has moved into the operational world."
Robin MacLaren, Chairman at Arago Technology Ltd said: “Installing these insulated cross arms on an operational line marks a major milestone in the development of Arago’s technology. After spending 5 years developing this product and subjecting it to a wide range of testing, Arago is pleased to commence its move towards commercial sales. I would like to thank SHE Transmission for its support on this installation and both SHE Transmission and National Grid for their wider support of the technology development.”