It's a phenomenon we've all heard about it and, most likely, have contributed to at some stage. It's that occasion when an exceptionally large volume of people in one nation switch on electricity at exactly the same time and cause a power surge.
Known as 'Television pick-up', when it occurs it causes large surges in electricity consumption which affect the British National Grid electricity transmission network. The name comes from the fact that it usually occurs when the public are watching the same TV programme and take advantage of breaks in these programmes to switch on the kettle to make a cup of tea or to operate other electrical appliances.
The phenomenon is most likely to happen during intervals or at the end of major sporting events, the final of X Factor or a particularly dramatic episode of Coronation Street or Eastenders. Indeed, the largest ever TV pick-up occurred during the World Cup in July 1990 when a 2,800 MW demand was imposed at the end of the dramatic penalty shoot-out in England's semi-final defeat to West Germany.
The National Grid commits considerable resources to predicting when these major power surges will occur. Such surges generally impose an extra demand of around 200-400 megawatts (MW) on the Grid and require a comprehensive contingency plan involving a network of stakeholders to activate power to ensure a constant electricity supply is provided.
One of the most important tools at the National Grid's disposal for meeting electricity needs during significant spikes in demand or failures of existing energy production facilities is STOR - Short Term Operating Reserve. Formerly known as Standing Reserve, this is an agreement which National Grid has in place with energy providers to balance the supply and demand of electricity on short timescales that could not be achieved using conventional large-scale power sources.
The Progress Group, part of FG Wilson's global network of 380 Dealers, has recently added to its ever-growing portfolio of STOR projects by successfully completing installations at three different sites across the north of England. The contracts for the projects - located in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire - were awarded to the Progress Group by Abbey Power following its successful tender process with National Grid.
Completed earlier this year, these installations bring the total number of STOR projects successfully delivered by the Progress Group throughout the UK to 16 since the programme was launched three years ago. There are 61 FG Wilson generator sets in total across these latest three sites - comprising a mixture of P1875 and P550 generator sets - each specifically arranged and customised to meet the individual project requirements.
Commenting on the successful delivery of these latest successful STOR projects, Phil Starr of the Progress Group said:
"We have quickly developed a well-earned reputation as a specialist in the delivery of STOR projects, bringing our expertise to bear for a line of work which is vital to the overall balance of the National Grid power supply. A key element of the service we offer clients is the pedigree of the FG Wilson name and the guarantee of world-class manufacturing which comes with its generator sets.
"From the outset of the STOR programme, the Progress team devised a strategy which ensures that the power solution delivered for each site provides the optimum value for money. A key component of this strategy is our policy of using a large number of smaller generator sets, from 500 kVA to 1875 kVA, rather than a few large units, and, even more importantly, designing the most effective arrangement of the units on site.
"With an unusually large number of generator sets involved in each project, up to as many as 52 in our most recent installations, devising a control system capable of effectively synchronizing the units was vital to the overall success of the installations. This is where our partnership with FG Wilson was crucial, with our combined experience and innovation coming together to develop a control system that is now effectively rolled out to all our STOR clients."
The installation projects in Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, as with all of the Progress Group's STOR contracts to date, provide the sites with the capability of delivering up to 20MW of power back into the National Grid for periods of up to two hours a day and a maximum of 500 hours per year. Once contracted to start, the generator sets can be online within two to six minutes. As well as installing the units, the Progress Group also manages the long-term service and maintenance for the sites.
Given the nature of the work, there are a number of features inherent in the STOR installations which are different to the majority of power solutions delivered by the Progress Group.
Mr Starr added:
"It is somewhat unusual for so many generator sets to be installed at one site and this provided a major challenge in designing a synchronizing control panel. The STOR sites are in rural areas which required us to pay particular attention to noise regulations as well as paying due heed to the impact on the local environment."
Through a global network of 380 Dealers, FG Wilson successfully serves and supports customers all over the world. With the back-up of FG Wilson's power solutions team, Dealers can meet any power requirement, no matter how complex.
The Progress Group has been an official FG Wilson Dealer since 1990 and is the UK's largest stockest of FG Wilson generator sets ranging from 9 kVA to 2500 kVA.