Northern Powergrid

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28 May 2021


28 May 2021

Can you hear that?! No? That’s because it’s ‘SilentPower’. Delve into the success and insightful findings of Northern Powergrid’s ingenious green power restoration project, SilentPower. Find out how our red vans are tackling climate change, air and noise pollution.

SilentPower was unveiled as a trial back in October 2019 to deploy electric vans with on-board energy storage systems during a power cut or essential maintenance work. During these crucial times of need, SilentPower serves customers, including those who are vulnerable or who have medical electricity needs – such as dialysis machines - while reducing noise pollution, local air pollution and carbon emissions typically associated with a conventional diesel generator.

Watch our SilentPower video.

The success of SilentPower
From August 2020 to March 2021 SilentPower vans were deployed 130 times and 47 people among #TeamPowergrid have been trained to use SilentPower in the field. Thanks to positive feedback and results from the trial, the electric vans have been integrated to form part of Northern Powergrid’s daily business, and plans are underway to determine how they can be used even more widely across our network, and in the wider industry by our fellow network operators.  

While an average diesel generator consumes 38 litres of diesel over a 12-hour period, one of our SilentPower vans is able to power a three-bedroom house for approximately 48 hours, or a community centre for 24 hours, all without the need for fuel. 

In our trial period alone, we successfully saved 4,940 litres of diesel, 13,239kg of CO2 and £4,050. If rolled out across every power cut in Northern Powergrid’s patch, this could save a huge 300 tonnes of CO2 a year from diesel emissions. 

Standard diesel generators are also difficult to deploy to remote homes or integrate with homes that export and consume power – such as those with solar panels. Similar trials to SilentPower have used trailer-mounted hybrid generators as a solution, but SilentPower uses the latest battery technology to ensure a more mobile and flexible system, while also eradicating the risk of fuel leaks. The vans provide a turnkey solution, fully contained within the vehicle, deployable in a wide range of scenarios. This means they can cleanly and quietly protect some of the most vulnerable customers in remote and hard to reach areas.

Additionally, the electricity from SilentPower batteries is more reliable than diesel, which can trip when local generation exports onto the network – a particular problem with domestic generation. SilentPower can be integrated with homes that both consume and export energy, meaning that power restoration is not only feasible and convenient in these circumstances, but also advantageous – allowing the vehicles to provide cleaner power for longer.

The Sound of Silence
Average diesel generators emit 77 decibels of noise – double the government permitted noise level (34 decibels) when dealing with nuisances. Understandably, as generators often run through the night, customers and neighbours deal with the noise in return for power. As the name suggests, SilentPower is completely silent, meaning that customers can sleep soundly and do not have to worry about disturbing their local area.

Powering the future of research and innovation 
The results of SilentPower represent the importance of research and innovation and underline how Northern Powergrid is committed to understanding more about our customers’ needs and preferences, all while working sustainably. 

A full closedown report of a range of performance assessments based on real-world power restoration applications will be published later this year. The knowledge and findings will be disseminated to the wider industry, giving other DNOs a comprehensive catalogue of information to justify adoption of the technology to minimise potential costs as well as environmental and operational risks. The performance assessments include:

  • Fully tested communications, tracking and control systems, ensuring compatibility with how operational colleagues respond to faults
  • Carbon footprint
  • Fuel usage
  • Noise pollution
  • Maintenance regime
  • Battery life

We are currently planning our business plan for 2023 and beyond and the success of projects such as SilentPower proves that testing, research and innovation are imperative to any future planning. It also evidences that our customers’ experiences, views and feedback are the driving force behind our innovation and should always be at the core of any business plan.  

By Iain Miller, Head of Innovation, Northern Powergrid