An advanced measurement system was developed to provide real-time data on power supply trends to National Grid writes Rahman Jamal

Gathering operational data helps National Grid identify problems early and better manage risks

Credit: National Grid

National Grid, the transmission system operator for the UK, faces the combined challenges of rapidly increasing demand, downgrading of fossil fuel plants and growing integration of renewable energy sources.

To meet these challenges, an advanced measurement system was developed to provide real-time data on power supply trends.

The system, developed using solutions from technology company National Instruments (NI), will help National Grid UK handle emerging challenges through better monitoring of the health of the overall grid.

The ability to gather operational data from a wide range of measurements will help National Grid identify potential problems early, prevent power disruptions and better manage risks.

Traditional measurement systems did not provide adequate coverage to overcome the challenges of the modern grid but National Instrument’s software-designed systems enabled the creation of a customised solution that offers the flexibility to be upgraded in the future as measurement needs and data volumes evolve.

National Grid selected the NI platform to develop a flexible, powerful and connected measurement system capable of gathering and analysing large amounts of data to better detect grid-wide trends.

National Grid is facing the challenges that come with a rapidly evolving power system

Credit: National Grid

Compared to its existing infrastructure, implementing a smarter, more connected system allows National Grid to manage change, optimize energy sources and plan for the future grid.

National Grid adopted a platform based on the CompactRIO system that can provide more measurements and adapt with the evolving grid for generations to come.

This interconnected network includes 136 systems, with 110 permanently installed in substations throughout England and Wales and 26 portable units that provide on-the-go spot coverage as needed.

The software application running on both versions is identical, which minimises the impact on system integration, training and support.

Peter Haigh, senior power systems engineer at National Grid, says: “Like many energy providers, National Grid UK is facing the challenges that come with a rapidly changing grid.

“Thus, the company is focused on developing a flexible solution that can be upgraded with new software as the measurement needs of the grid and amount of data available evolve.”

With an open, flexible, software-designed instrument, National Grid engineers can customise the information available for grid operation and easily make upgrades as needs change.

This approach improves grid monitoring and reliability while reducing the amount of equipment needed.

Additionally, with the advanced processing power of CompactRIO, National Grid can maintain its network of connected systems and push intelligence down the grid to turn massive amounts of raw data into bits of useful information, keeping the lights on for millions of businesses and homes throughout the UK.

Data gathering and analysis has always been vital to the decision-making process but in today’s highly connected world, the volume and speed of data is growing exponentially.

The volume and speed of data in the power sector is growing exponentially

Credit: National Grid

Traditional hardware systems not only struggle to cope with today’s data flows, but can soon become outdated as our needs change. If you are building a system today, you need a foundation to stand on that adapts to, and even anticipates, changing system requirements. We think that foundation is a platform-based approach.


Rahman Jamal is Global Technology Director at National Instruments