Cast iron case for Firm Frequency Response

James Brand, Managing Director of United Cast Bar, a leading foundry based in Chesterfield, is a firm fan of Firm Frequency Response (FFR). Here he explains why.

United Cast Bar (UK) is a major player in the continuous cast iron bar market, producing up to 45,000 tonnes of continuous cast iron bar annually and with our own distribution network in Europe. We have the largest portfolio among our peers worldwide, offering a wide range of sizes and formats. Approximately 90% of the foundry’s output is exported, 80% to EU countries.

Our journey towards FFR began when I discovered a little about the scheme and decided to investigate further. We always need to be on the lookout for additional revenue streams to support our success in the marketplace, and it seemed like a good way for United Cast Bar to earn extra income in a manageable format.

What I found was that FFR is part of National Grid’s demand side response (DSR) portfolio and, in simple terms, is the generation or removal of load from the electricity grid to stabilise frequency.

National Grid is prepared to pay companies to participate in FFR as it has an obligation to ensure that sufficient generation and/or demand is held in automatic readiness to manage all eventualities that might result in frequency variations. National Grid offers those taking part the potential to earn extra income from their assets by automatically adjusting power consumption in real time.

High rewards

The financial and operational benefits for companies taking part can be significant, with the potential to earn high rewards for every megawatt (MW) of average onsite energy consumption saved. This is in return for around six (on average) ‘turn-down’ events per year, lasting for a maximum of 30 minutes each.

The opportunity to earn significant sums for a controlled risk meant I was prepared to take it to the next stage, and the Cast Metals Federation, of which we are members, put me in touch with GridBeyond. After an informative presentation from them, I discussed it with my management team and we set the process in motion.

Optimised returns

GridBeyond is an aggregator and a technology leader in smart grid optimisation. It helps businesses such as ours to make the right choices and optimise returns. In addition, it takes care of the necessary hardware and software installation, as well as the online monitoring and reaction systems, and the day-to-day running of the system. All of this is provided without any capex requirement, with the aggregator simply taking a share of the scheme pay-out.

We decided that our two main Inductotherm melting furnaces would be suitable assets to shut down during an FFR event. Furnaces are the most energy-intensive items at any foundry and it was estimated that this would provide an average available load of 1.972 MW for the FFR service. On receiving a control signal, the melt furnaces can be turned off within 10 seconds. After 30 minutes, the furnaces can be restarted automatically following the required sequence.

The financial and operational benefits for companies taking part can be significant, with the potential to earn high rewards for every megawatt (MW) of average onsite energy consumption saved.

For peace of mind, we contacted Inductotherm, who manufactured the furnaces, to come in and check that their equipment would be compatible. Inductotherm gave us the all-clear and we happily moved forwards.

If the power is turned down on our melt furnaces for 30 minutes we simply lose a few degrees of temperature which we make up on restart. In addition, we have a manual override option if for any reason there is a health and safety issue or other concern.

Generating revenue

We went live with FFR in February this year, and were generating full revenue from the scheme in the third month after paying down hardware and software costs, and revenue could conceivably rise further in line with increases in production volumes.

There are other benefits too. For instance, GridBeyond has created a personalised optimisation dashboard that presents data such as energy consumption, which is great for our own energy and asset management plans.

Another advantage of working with an aggregator such as GridBeyond is it gives us a futureproof platform so if response schemes change over time we will be technology-ready to access more financially attractive tariffs. GridBeyond’s advanced platform makes switching easy to facilitate.