Energy ‘system of the future’ for Orkney

The first phase of a new £28mn project to create a virtual energy system (VES) – to digitally link distributed and intermittent renewable generation to flexible demand – has been launched in Orkney, Scotland. Funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind VES to interlink local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable system. 

Led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the project brings together a consortium of Orkney-based partners – Solo Energy, Aquatera, Community Energy Scotland, Heriot-Watt University and Orkney Islands Council – as well as multi-national energy company Doosan Babcock. 

Electricity, transport and heat powered by local renewable energy generation, will be coupled with flexible energy demand balancing the intermittency of renewables. 

At the heart of the project is the demonstration of flexible energy balancing technologies. The project aims to deploy up to 500 domestic batteries; 100 business and large-scale batteries and 200 Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) chargers; as well as up to 600 new electrical vehicles (EVs). There will also be up to 100 flexible heating systems and an industrial-scale hydrogen fuel cell from Doosan. 

Solo Energy will implement its FlexiGrid software platform, enabling monitoring and control of the technologies to charge during periods of peak local renewable generation, and release stored energy during times of peak demand. These technologies will be introduced under leasing type finance and novel ways of ownership that avoid the end user making major capital investment. 

Once demonstrated and proven in Orkney, it is expected that the VES model will be replicated in other areas across the UK.

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