An impressive new eco-paint, developed by Newcastle-based Rosh Engineering, could soon be rolled out across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire by Northern Powergrid – a company that uses thousands of gallons of paint each year to protect its electricity network.
The new paint could provide three interconnected core benefits to the electricity network operator and its 8 million customers:
BENEFIT 1: WHO SAID PAINT DRYING IS BORING?
Applying a lick of paint to some infrastructure might sound like a fairly straight forward job but when you’re dealing with thousands of volts of electricity, things start getting a whole lot more complicated. To protect workers and ensure the transformer remains undamaged, Northern Powergrid is required to disconnect, paint, and reconnect them to the network every time they require a coat of paint. Geoff Earl, Northern Powergrid’s Director of Safety, Health and Environment explains the significance of doing this: “Our transformers usually work in pairs so if one is out of service, the other keeps the lights on. Taking an asset offline for any period of time, even for essential maintenance, temporarily reduces security of electricity supply for our customers.”
Using the industry standard paint, this whole process can take up to 48 hours.. However, with Rosh Engineering’s new formula, the time is reduced from two days to less than one. That equates to real-time savings of more than 4,000 hours per year for the network. This is time spent safe in the knowledge that should one transformer fail, its pair is primed and ready to step in and keep the lights on for customers.
Geoff adds: “Halving the downtime for a transformer could help us maintain network security for our customers and significantly reduce the unavoidable decrease in network resilience that comes with some essential maintenance works.”
BENEFIT 2: THE GREENEST GREY PAINT YOU’VE EVER SEEN
The paint might be grey in colour but be under no illusions – this is one of the greenest paints out there. The water-based nature of the paint marks a significant improvement on its environmental impact, not to mention local air quality.
Northern Powergrid has wanted to explore switching to water-based paint for some time, to replace its more harmful white spirit-based alternative. However, until now water-based paints have needed temperatures of 20oC+ to dry – a seemingly impossible task for an operator battling the unforgiving weather of Northern England.
This new paint however, can dry as low as 6oC – a much more appropriate temperature for the North East! This innovation means the new solution can be used all year round and is not only beating the drying conditions of previous water-based options but also of the highly polluting white spirit-based paints, as most would take a prolonged period to dry at 6oC. The hydrocarbons released by white spirt-based paints can have a detrimental effect on local air quality, so the shift to a water-based formula is a welcome change for both Northern Powergrid and its customers.
Geoff concludes: “At Northern Powergrid we are always looking for innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of what we do for the communities we serve and to boost the economic strength of our region. Our assets are key to sending power to the millions of people we serve every day; we want to ensure that we protect our network, so it operates safely and efficiently for as long as possible for our customers. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of this trial and how the paint could be used more widely across our business to keep our assets in peak condition for as long as possible whilst reducing our environmental impact.”
BENEFIT 3: LESS IS MORE
Staying on the theme of positive environmental impact, the new paint requires a much thinner coat to protect Northern Powergrid’s assets, reducing raw materials by up to a third.
Ian Dormer, MD of Rosh Engineering, comments: “Climate change issues are not to be taken lightly, but a lighter coat of paint could bring us one step closer to supporting a more stable future climate. If proven in this trial, this is a fantastic example of the small steps we can all take to improve our environment.”
Despite the numerous benefits offered by this innovative new paint, both Rosh Engineering and Northern Powergrid continue to monitor its performance and are on the lookout for further advantages before potentially rolling the innovation out across the network. One line of enquiry includes looking at whether the paint could potentially extend the life of Northern Powergrid’s assets – something that could result in savings that could be reinvested to further improve Northern Powergrid’s network for customers.
“It’s early days for assessing the long-term benefits of the paint,” says Geoff. “But we anticipate this could have a measurable effect on the life of our transformers – leading to a positive impact for both the environment in terms of materials use, and our customers as we reduce system security risks during maintenance work and speed up work programmes to protect the assets that power their everyday life.”
Ian concludes: “Initial laboratory trials have given us positive results – but to have a network operator like Northern Powergrid which is open-minded, environmentally proactive and prepared to carry out a live trial is potentially game-changing. We can really see how the paint performs and how it could help Northern Powergrid – and wider industry – better protect the country’s power network whilst taking positive steps to eradicate the use of hydrocarbon emitting spirit-based paints on infrastructure.”