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Scientific advice helps mitigate impact of space weather on global navigation satellite systems

NEWS: Sygensys collaborates on project with University of Bristol, funded by SPRINT

Developing a precision grid monitoring technology applicable for distributed energy resources

Sygensys, a start-up that develops technology to help maintain the stability of the power grid during periods of rapid change in supply or demand, has collaborated on a project with the University of Bristol. This has enabled Sygensys to develop a precision grid monitoring technology applicable for distributed energy resources (DERs) including wind farms and larger solar PV installations now, and battery storage systems in the future.

To provide a stable technology solution to the grid, Sygensys needed to fully understand the reliance of the electricity grids on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) services and identify mechanisms that could cause failure of GNSS used for timing applications by the grid.

The project addressed the impact of failure of GNSS’s service on timing applications of distributed energy resources as a result of space weather events. Sygensys benefitted from the University of Bristol’s expertise in space, satellite systems and systems engineering, to help it gain a better understanding of space weather, and its risks and impacts.

The batteries in EVs and grid scale battery energy storage systems provide an innovative means to stabilise the power grid and this market is forecast for rapid growth. National Grid ESO, Great Britain’s electricity system operator, estimates that at times of high demand and low wind generation over one-third of the demand on the grid may come from these storage devices by 2035.

From the wide range of known generic space weather hazards, the project identified three types of event that could be harmful to GNSS timing systems. Based on the occurrence of previous similar events, the chance of one of these potentially damaging episodes happening over the next decade is about 10%.

The SPRINT project helped Sygensys secure £245,000 grant funding from Innovate UK to work with the Satellite Applications Catapult on a £499,000 project to develop a demonstrator for this new technology. Sygensys also received support from the team at the National Timing Centre, part of National Physical Laboratory. In parallel with the demonstrator, Sygensys plans to build on its working relationship with Bristol University to expand knowhow related to space weather events.

The project with the University of Bristol was funded by the £7.5 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme. SPRINT provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Andrew Larkins, Chief Executive Officer at Sygensys said: “The availability of reliable power around the world is critical to modern lifestyles and so to maintain precision control, we need to make the grid measurement timings as robust as possible. The timing reference typically come from GPS, and this can be affected by space weather events.

“By working with the University of Bristol and its sub-contractor, Riskaware, we’ve been able to highlight how space weather could impact the signal or the satellites themselves, as well as the cyber risks to satellites. The project also led to a highly successful summer internship.”

Dr Karen Aplin, Professor of Space Science and Technology at University of Bristol added: “To the Sygensys project, the University brought expertise in space weather effects and their impact on satellite systems. The project identified that it’s a race to raise awareness of the risks of weather changes so regulators and designers can be aware and produce products accordingly. It’s essential that we can design systems to be as resilient as possible to space weather, irrespective of the level of threat.”

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