Northern Powergrid, the power network operator for the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is the UK’s first distribution network operator (DNO) to adopt an innovative new eco-paint as standard.
Today’s announcement is the latest in the company’s commitments to enable it to deliver cost savings, increase reliability and improve local air quality for its 8 million customers. The paint provides a vital protective coating to electricity network assets and its unique formula cuts the amount of material needed to protect a power asset by a third.
DNOs traditionally use alkyd paints on transformers and pylons. Traditional solvent-based paints can emit more than half the liquid-weight as gases, known as volatile organic compounds (VOC), into the atmosphere during the drying process. This is not a problem with the new paint, which is water based. If rolled out across the UK electricity industry, the eco-paint could save more than 5.5 million tonnes of VOCs from being emitted into local air*.
Following a successful trial, Northern Powergrid will deploy the new paint network-wide as part of its maintenance programme to protect its assets. The DNO expects the paint to reduce asset downtime by 166 days a year, as its properties mean assets can be painted more quickly and come back online faster. Additionally, the reduced asset downtime increases network resilience by minimising the risk of power outages, while also enabling better value for money for customers. The paint is supplied by North East firm Rosh Engineering.
“We’re committed to delivering cost-savings and driving sustainability across every element of our business. Enabling the switch to renewable energy and decarbonising transport are two significant ways we are going green, but this project demonstrates our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions in every way possible,” said Geoff Earl, Northern Powergrid’s Director of Safety, Health and Environment. “This paint is a stroke of genius. It is a prime example of out-of-the-box thinking having a real and measurable positive impact on our local environmental footprint.”
The roll-out of Rosh Engineering’s award-winning Greenovoc paint replaces the need for toxic white-spirit paints. It will enable the DNO to increase network resilience by significantly reducing time taken to carry out essential maintenance on assets, minimising downtime and enabling Northern Powergrid’s expert team to focus on delivering more customer benefits.
The DNO uses 1,000s of gallons of paint each year to protect 1,200 transformers across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. It carried out trials with Rosh Engineering over 20 months from June 2018. The partners successfully applied the new formula paint to two large power transformers in Darlington Grid and Killingworth Substations. The performance assessment met all the required criteria, such as protection and durability, and delivered increased performance when compared with traditional alkyd paints.
The new paint offers three interconnected core benefits to the 3.9 million homes and businesses that Northern Powergrid serves across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire:
- Drying speed: The eco-paint can dry in less than an hour, cutting the time taken to disconnect, paint, and reconnect a transformer to the network from two days to less than one. Transformers usually work in pairs so if one is out of service, the other keeps the lights on. Taking an asset offline even for essential maintenance therefore temporarily reduces security of supply for customers. Halving the downtime for transformers will therefore increase network resilience.
- Drying temperature: Water-based paint is better for the environment and local air quality. Northern Powergrid wanted to switch for some time, but traditional water-based paints need temperatures of 20°C+ to dry. The new paint can dry as low as 6°C, meaning it beats the drying speed of previous water-based and white spirit-based paints.
- Raw materials: The new paint needs a much thinner coat to protect an asset, reducing raw materials by up to a third.
Ian Dormer, MD of Rosh Engineering, said: “We are always trying to improve the service we provide our customers. No other protective coating has delivered the results that the Greenovoc Speciality Coatings innovative paint has, while also being so environmentally friendly. We are now planning a new mixing plant for the paint at our Blaydon on Tyne facility to ensure we can meet the increased demand going forward.”
The first transformer to be painted as part of the new agreement is in Peterlee, County Durham. The rest of Northern Powergrid’s transformers will be painted with the innovative new solution as required.
Rosh Engineering won the 2019/20 Rushlight Responsible Product or Service Award earlier this year and was a shortlisted finalist in the internationally-acclaimed Edie Sustainability Leaders Awards for a Product Innovation of the Year with the Greenovoc paint.
Patrick Erwin, Northern Powergrid’s Policy and Markets Director underlined the importance of the new approach: “This is a great project. By doing something about something as seemingly simple as paint we will generate real operational differences, reduce system risk and improve our environmental performance. It is innovative, locally-sourced solutions like this that hit the sweet spot of supporting both the economic and physical health of our communities, while also reducing our environmental footprint.”
* There are an estimated 1 million power transformers and 120,000 pylons in the UK. Conservative estimates suggest each one will be painted once every 10 years, so 112,000 each year. The estimated average amount of paint per transformer or pylon is 100 litres, resulting in 1.2 million litres of paint a year. Each litre of alkyd paint has 50%+ VOCs. 1.2m / 2 = more than 5.5million litres / tonnes of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted UK-wide.