MRP hails web-style grid 'SuperNode'

A new high-voltage direct current (HVDC) hub design has been unveiled by developer Mainstream Renewable Power (MRP) that could clear the way for construction of cost-cutting "meshed" renewable energy supergrids.

The company's "SuperNode" concept will make it possible for electricity to be collected from wind and solar farms and "intelligently" routed over long distances by transmission system operators (TSOs) to major urban centres, using a model derived from the World Wide Web.

"This is going to do for electricity what the internet has done for data over the past 15 years," claims MRP head of technology Joe Corbett.

“The really exciting thing about SuperNode is it uses a combination of technologies which are available today so this is something which can be put to work relatively quickly. It’s not a pie in the sky concept."

Electricity systems currently use "point to point" transmission lines, carrying power from generation project to consumer – a system architecture that has historically been prone to cost inefficiencies and reliability issues.

The SuperNode – a three-dimensional model of which was released today – is designed to reroute power production when an export cable goes down, rather than the electricity being generated having "nowhere to go", says Corbett, while also allowing for HVDC transmission over very long distances without economics-undermining losses.

"Ultimately this is about consumers getting access to the cheapest electricity possible. Households can power their homes from a solar plant in Spain when the sun is shining and then from a wind farm in the North Sea when the wind is blowing," he says.

"Today if a generation plant goes down, the TSO gets back-up power from the next most expensive plant. The SuperNode does the opposite; it will seek out the cheapest available power."

The SuperNode concept could also revolutionise thinking on back-up electricity generation plants, with the grid using the built-in redundancy of meshed transmission so that utilities would not be stuck paying for large power stations sitting idle due to system faults or down-time.

MRP has a global renewable energy development pipeline of some 19GW including just under 8GW of offshore wind projects in England, Scotland and Germany with 4.45GW of secured grid connections.

The company is on track to build more than 1GW of wind and solar projects across four continents this year.