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Your kettle could start taking longer to boil

Technology has been trialled to reduce voltage when there’s not enough electricity for demand

Government-backed technology to dip the voltage of electricity delivered to homes has already been trialled in one region of the UK, and no-one noticed.

Half a million households in the north-west took part in the trial that was set to test the reality of increasing the capacity of the grid without a costly new infrastructure. The trial is now at the end of its year lifespan, and has illustrated a promising option for the National Grid regarding renewables with no complaints having been recorded.

offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farms can have production issues depending on the weather

Lower voltage when the wind isn’t blowing

The trial gives hope to increasing the country’s usage of renewable energy, as voltage can be lowered by 3% in times when renewable options cannot fulfil the demand for power. This would be the case for when wind farms cannot perform at an optimal level due to a lack of wind.

For a consumer, this would mean a kettle would take around 12 seconds longer to boil, but at no extra cost. The amount of electricity consumed is exactly the same, just delivered over a slightly longer time period.

The Telegraph reported that the company responsible for the scheme has had meetings with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), with Whitehall sources claiming they want the idea rolled out imminently.

The technology could also apply when it is unusually windy.

Problems solved at the push of a button

Wind farms occasionally have to switch off when wind is too high and they are producing too much electricity for the grid. The technology trialled could also have the capacity to increase voltage and make the most of a surge in the production of green electricity.

Pushing a button to reduce voltage is a less expensive and disruptive process than the alternative for the National Grid. The alternative of creating substations, to help with straining capacity, would cost millions of pounds and the disruption of digging streets.

Although it would be used rarely, this option could provide security for the grid and the future of renewables.

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  • Martin Knott

    Reducing the voltage to one kettle would reduce maximum demand but millions of kettles on for longer would consume the same amount of power. Just a fiddle of statistics.