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23/09/11: Smart fuse innovation set to save millions and shorten power cuts

An innovative ‘smart fuse’ unit has been developed for low voltage electricity substations to reduce the impact of power cuts and save millions of pounds in engineer call-out and repair costs.

Branded as Bidoyng, the smart fuse has been invented and developed by Lisburn-based electrical engineering firm Kelvatek, with support and funding from Electricity North West.

Many power interruptions are caused by blown fuses at substations, much in the same way that can happen with electrical appliances in the home. The new smart fuse will be installed in substations across the region to detect blown fuses and automatically switch supplies through a new fuse. There is also demand for the unit across the UK.

Darren Jones, Research and Development Manager for Electricity North West, said: “When a fuse blows at a substation, an engineer is sent to the site to go and replace it and customers might be without power until it has been fixed. This device detects blown fuses and will automatically switch supplies to a backup, without the need to wait for an engineer. It will mean that customers can be reconnected in a matter of seconds.

“It also automatically reports faults to engineering teams and can identify the location of problems on the circuit, plus it’s no bigger than a standard fuse so it can be used in any substation.”

The work on the fuse was developed under the industry regulator Ofgem’s Innovation Funding Incentive scheme. It has now been approved by Ofgem as a First Tier Low Carbon Network Fund project allowing the fuses to be introduced more widely.

Darren added: “Electricity North West invests around £2m a year in research and development under the Innovation Funding Incentive scheme, which we allocate to various early-stage technology projects At any given time, we are involved in about 20 different programmes – funding and contributing the time and expertise of our engineers to work with partners on innovations and solutions that are aimed at improving the efficiency and reliability of the North West’s electricity distribution network.

“We started our work with Kelvatek in 2005 and the development of the Bidoyng smart fuse has been one of our most successful collaborations. It has involved a huge amount of expertise, hard work and determination to bring the product up to the stringent performance requirements needed to launch it into the market.

“Following successful tests, we are ready to begin installing 200 of the devices across the region with demand for the devices from other electricity distribution companies around the country. It’s expected to increase efficiency, lower supply interruption time and save millions in engineer time and expenses.

“It’s a brilliant example of how energy distribution companies can work with innovative businesses to find new industry solutions. We’re excited about the potential it has to be implemented throughout the UK by other network operators too.”

John Cunningham, Managing Director of Kelvatek, said: “We are delighted in the success of the Bidoyng project. The device will produce huge reductions in customer interruptions and minutes lost for everyone. The Bidoyng units encompass significant new fault analysis and monitoring technologies, helping the electricity companies to intelligently manage their networks in line with future Smart Grid requirements.

“It has been a mammoth engineering task to install leading edge technology into such a confined space and onerous environment. The continuous collaboration between ourselves and Electricity North West, as well as OFGEM’s Innovation Scheme (IFI), has been essential to the success of the project”.

Electricity North West is currently installing Bidoyng smart fuse units across 200 substations in the region as a first phase roll out.

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