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This project ended in September 2015 and is now closed.Dismiss

What is Falcon?

DurationNovember 2011 - September 2015
  • East Midlands

Project FALCON (Flexible Approaches for Low Carbon Optimised Networks) investigated how new 11kV network techniques work in practice and, by simulating their use in different scenarios, tried to determine the best ways of managing network problems expected to arise from the increased use of low carbon technologies and generation.

The project broadly divided into two main parts:

  • The technique trials which involved installing equipment, creating commercial frameworks and operating the techniques on our network in the Milton Keynes area;
  • The simulation tool and the supporting elements, that calculated the likely load increases, determining constraints on the network and modelled the result of applying those possible techniques.

Click here for the Project FALCON Data Protection plan.


  • Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), such as Western Power Distribution, are expecting large increases in the electricity flowing through their networks at peak times. This increase is expected due to customers adopting low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps. At the same time, the networks need to accommodate more generation which also requires alterations to the network. Traditionally, new generator connections and increased demand for electricity have been handled using reinforcement - essentially increasing the network capacity, for example with larger cables. Traditional reinforcement can be costly and disruptive and may be difficult to implement if the changes to the network are rapid and widespread.

    FALCON is concerned with techniques which can be applied to resolve issues on the 11kV system. This is the backbone of how we deliver electricity to homes and businesses and making these networks more flexible is critical to support the low carbon transition.

    • A Network Investment Model to create and use forecasts to quantify and predict 11kV network constraints.
    • A decision support tool, enabling DNOs to design their future network based on an accurate understanding of alternative costs and benefits.
    • Learning about the individual and combined applicability of six intervention techniques, which were deployed on the 11kV network.
  • Improved network planning

    By improving our understanding of the options for managing 11kV networks we can “select the best tool from the tool-kit”. Improving the way we invest in our network, will allow us to get the best long term balance between cost, network performance, customer and environmental impact. The SIM will pave the way for commercial software to help network planners and those looking for information to support strategic and policy decisions. The load model will allow us to be responsive in adapting our long term plans as the actual take-up of low carbon technology becomes clearer.

    Improved customer satisfaction

    Widening the techniques used to manage the network should reduce cost and inconvenience to customers and can improve network reliability.

    Enabling Low Carbon Transition

    Using additional techniques should reduce the costs of connecting new generation and reduce the obstacles to adopting low carbon technologies.

    Understanding and developing future DNO skills

    The trials have allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the skills required to implement new techniques. These skills will cover technical aspects but also how we manage commercial aspects with customers.

    • Dynamic asset ratings - the ongoing reassessment of the capacity of assets, based on environmental and operating conditions they are actually experiencing, or are forecast to experience. 
    • Automatic load transfer – the implementation of alternative network open point locations to change power flow along feeders, aimed at increasing feeder capacity headroom, and also to improve other operational parameters (losses, and voltage). 
    • Meshed networks – the closure of normal open points on the network to change power flows and alleviate constraints. This technique also involved the provision of additional circuit protection to maintain/improve connected customer resilience to faults. 
    • Energy Storage – the installation of equipment that effectively time-shifted demand, from periods of potential system constraint, by discharging energy into the system. The stored energy is then recharged at periods of lower demand. Such equipment may also improve other network parameters and providing (commercial) ancillary services. 
    • Control of distributed generation to increase capacity on the 11kV network using innovative commercial arrangements. 
    • Control of customer demand to increase capacity on the 11kV network through the use of innovative commercial arrangements.

    It should be noted that conventional reinforcement will still be the most appropriate technique in some cases.  

    Click here to view the techniques in action. 

  • FALCON evaluated the new techniques in two ways, which form two of the major components of FALCON.

    The Trials

    Technique trials which involved: installing equipment, creating commercial frameworks, and operating the techniques on our network in the Milton Keynes area. This provided information about the costs, practical issues and effectiveness of the techniques in real life situations.

    This information was required to model the techniques in the SIM.

    The Scenario Investment Model (SIM)

    We developed prototype simulation software, which modelled the network over many years to see:

    • The predicted changes in load and generation and the problems that will result on the network as well as the different ways we could resolve these problems with conventional reinforcement or the new technique;
    • The merits of the different ways of resolving the problems including factors like cost, customer factors, speed of implementation and carbon impact.

    The SIM will also be capable of analysing other DNO’s networks.