The Technology Strategy Board, the UK Government’s innovation agency, awarded their match-funded grant to a consortium set up by technology innovation firm the Advanced Digital Institute (ADI). This consortium included industry partners such as ENER-G, Flexitricity, Smarter Grid Solutions and UK Power Networks. ADI is based in Saltaire, employs 12 staff, and has a customer range from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to corporates. They aim to help digital technology companies innovate.
The £100,000-worth of funding has been won by a project led by ADI to explore the development of “the next generation of virtual power plants”. These centrally-controlled plants will use clusters of combined heat and power (CHP) systems, small-scale generating capabilities at locations such as hospital and business parks, to bolster supply when they are not operating at capacity. The big idea behind this is that they want to help meet peaks in energy demand.
John Eaglesham, chief executive of ADI and managing the initiative, said that ADI s very excited to work together with some of the UK’s key smart grid industry players in addressing the challenge of future energy supply. The project will shore up electricity supply and they will also examine new solutions for low carbon and low cost heat distribution. This could incentivize the UK CHP industry to provide more CHPs in areas where current UK Government incentives have fallen short.
Dave Harson, programme manager at ADI, added to this that this is a completely new business area for ADI. So it’s also quite exciting for them to work in this area where they haven’t previously done any research in.
The feasibility study of ADI will try to find new ways of increasing overall security and efficiency of the electricity system, and decarbonising energy supplies across the UK as demand increases. The study is scheduled for completion in May 2013.
Mr Harson also said that these assets are already around, they already exist anyway. So we need to tap into those and use them, use that capacity, so we don’t have to invest in other carbon-generating capacities to meet the demand. ADI will also include a large number smaller-scale CHP generators into a virtual power plant because they want to achieve “improves flexibility and greater load-balancing potential to improve resilience of supply and potentially reduce the need to large utility projects”.
Up until 2010, ADI used to receive public sector funding from Yorkshire Forward. But Harson said that business is good for the moment and ADI is now operating independently of any of that type of grant money. The grant they receive from their key partner the Technology Strategy Board is one to fund specific projects, as well as doing commercial work with other customers.
Chris Marsland, technical director at ENER-G, said that the project will investigate the feasibility of using networks of CHP generators to complement and reduce the need for reinforcement of the electricity network. The benefits of this could include greater use of clean electricity supplies, reduced domestic heating costs and less need for electricity infrastructure investments. So the project will benefit the industry and the consumers alike, while reducing carbon emissions.
The project will perform business and technical modeling based on data from UK Power Networks’s London electricity network. They use ENER-G CHP generator and software and a central control system provided by Smarter Grid Solutions. UK Power Network is also leading Low carbon London, a £30m programme that’s largely funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Network Fund, to help develop smart electricity networks in Britain.