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.

Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland saves £165,000 with Triad avoidance

An awareness campaign on energy charges at one of the UK & Ireland’s largest manufacturing firms has reaped significant savings and also helped it play a part in ensuring the nation’s electricity network is able to meet demand. Michael Dickinson, Engineering Manager Glass Industry UK & Ireland for Saint-Gobain, explains more.

Until last winter, the workings of the Triad system – used to help smooth out demand on the electricity network – was probably something of a mystery to many of our site managers and energy champions.

The system encourages large energy users to reduce consumption at peak periods in winter by levying a charge based on their electricity use over the three half-hours of highest demand on the grid each winter. As these Triad periods are not known in advance, efforts by major energy users to try and avoid them has the effect of reducing demand across the system.

Triad charges can be a sizeable proportion of our energy bills at Saint-Gobain, a fact highlighted by some number-crunching I did recently for an energy presentation to our managing directors.

Dramatic savings

Ahead of last winter we looked to try and help site managers and energy champions better understand the Triad system and how we could minimise our costs by reducing demand around peak periods.

Following a suggestion by Mark Cox, Account Manager at our energy supplier SmartestEnergy, we staged a joint webinar for staff from our 20 or so sites around the country ahead of last winter.

The response was fantastic with a number of sites really taking the issue on board and developing detailed plans of action for when a Triad period looked likely. Although the timing of the Triad periods isn’t known in advance, we subscribe to SmartestEnergy’s Triad alerting service which assesses a range of factors including historic trends and temperature to determine when they are likely.

Triad charges can be a sizeable proportion of our energy bills at Saint-Gobain, a fact highlighted by some number-crunching I did recently for an energy presentation to our managing directors.

By switching some machinery off or otherwise reducing demand for a short period of time from around 4pm to 6pm – the peak time for Triads – some of our sites have been able to achieve dramatic savings. Our overall demand across the three Triad periods showed an 11% fall and led to a total saving of £165,000.

At one site alone – Holwell Works at Melton Mowbray where energy champions Allan Hird and Tom Zbaraski developed a really well thought out strategy – the saving achieved was the equivalent of more than a whole month’s energy costs there. The site’s success saw it recently presented with the first Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland Energy Management Award with SmartestEnergy also making a donation to charity to mark the achievement.

We’re now looking to build on progress by staging another joint webinar with SmartestEnergy ahead of the start of this coming winter.

Environmental and social benefits

As well as reducing our costs and helping maintain our competitiveness, it also ties in well with the wider aims of our company to minimise our environmental impact and contribute to the economic and social development of the communities we operate in. Reducing our peak demand plays a part in helping balance the grid, ensuring the UK’s energy supplies are maintained and reducing the need for more generation capacity to be built. A real win-win!

Demand side response adds up for Aggregate Industries

It started with bitumen tanks and who knows where it might end? Donna Hunt, Head of Sustainability at Aggregate Industries, relates how her company is broadening its thinking to take full advantage of the possibilities of demand side response (DSR).

Aggregate Industries knows a lot about building roads so it’s appropriate we’re blazing a trail when it comes to making the most of DSR opportunities.

We’re well known in the industry for being pioneers in the use of new technology and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption and costs, and at the same time reduce our emissions. When we found out that DSR can help us do all these things – and generate revenue – we became very interested.

We teamed up with energy specialists Open Energi to identify those activities of ours that fit the dynamic frequency response management profile. In other words, activities where we can safely automate the switching on or off of power – without affecting quality – in order to help balance the grid.

The first plant we included in the scheme was our bitumen tanks which heat bitumen for the making of asphalt for road surfaces. We found that turning off our bitumen tank heaters to respond to short-term fluctuations in supply and demand doesn’t affect the quality of our product at all; bitumen is stored at between 150-180 degrees centigrade and the heaters on modern, well-maintained and insulated bitumen tanks can be switched off for over an hour with only a one-degree change in temperature.  The tanks’ temperature bands act as control parameters; if the temperature is within those bands switching can take place automatically, or if not, nothing happens.

The clever part is that the equipment uses frequency signals as a cue, which are instantaneous indicators of the balance between electricity supply and demand. National Grid has to maintain frequency at 50hz to balance supply and demand, so if it falls below 50hz our plant is automatically switched off if conditions are right; if it rises above 50hz, it is switched on.

The average duration of a switch is less than five minutes. Essentially the intervention is invisible and has no impact on our operations, yet we are providing a valuable service to National Grid 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We are paid for being available, regardless of how often we are required to respond.

We’re well known in the industry for being pioneers in the use of new technology and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption and costs, and at the same time reduce our emissions. When we found out that DSR can help us do all these things – and generate revenue – we became very interested.

Equipment was initially fitted to 244 of our bitumen tanks at 40 asphalt plants around the country. So successful has it proved that we’ve extended it to 11 quarry pumps at two quarries, and we are also reviewing all our sites, operations and equipment to identify further activities to bring into the scheme.

Embracing this innovative technology has helped us achieve 3.6MW per year of flexible demand for the grid.  In terms of emissions that is almost 50,000 tonnes of CO2 avoided over five years – equivalent to saving 390,000 flights between Paris and London!

And thanks to Open Energi’s metering and monitoring equipment, we have new data which can help us identify where the bitumen tanks may be inefficient or not running correctly, which in turn we can use to make adjustments to achieve even more energy savings.

We’re really pleased to be part of the DSR scheme with National Grid and Open Energi and we want to help get the message out how well it works. Through our partnership with the Living Grid network, we’re happy to share our experience of this emerging technology and encourage others to take up the opportunity too. Together we can create a positive change in the energy system that extends beyond our own organisation.