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Pioneering “smart energy” project launched

A pioneering project aimed at transforming Orkney into a “smart energy island” is set to commence.

The new £28.5 million Virtual Energy System (VES) is set to demonstrate the energy system of the future, reducing and eventually eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

A VES will be created in Orkney, and the first phase in this project has been launched, digitally linking distributed and intermittent renewable generation to flexible demand.

The ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind VES interlinking local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system.

Orkney is said to have been chosen due to its high take-up in micro generation.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), it is hoped that this project will pave the way for cheaper and greener energy.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry said: “What we are seeing here on Orkney is a test bed for the energy system of the future.

“These smart systems are a key part of our modern industrial strategy and will provide cheaper, greener and more flexible access to energy for everyone.

“What we learn from these innovations could one day be rolled out across the UK and exported around the world and we’ll be able to say it was ‘Made in Orkney’.”

Led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the ReFLEX Orkney project brings together an expert 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.

There will be smart monitoring and control of the flexible technologies to charge during periods of peak local renewable generation, and release stored energy during times of peak demand.

This pioneering project will help Orkney maximise the potential of its significant renewable generation capabilities, help to ensure higher quality and more affordable energy services, as well as further lowering the county’s carbon footprint by decreasing reliance on imported carbon-intensive grid electricity from the UK mainland.

Once demonstrated and proven in Orkney, it is expected that the VES model and associated integrated energy service supply framework will be replicated in other areas across the UK and internationally, building long term export opportunities for the ReFLEX project partners and helping to create more flexible and renewable-based energy systems.

On behalf of the ReFLEX Orkney project partners, Neil Kermode, managing director at EMEC said: “We’re delighted that UKRI have funded this project. This new model will demonstrate how we can better interact with, own and manage our integrated energy systems locally, both at individual and community level.

“50 per cent of the project is being funded privately indicating the appetite that exists within the partners to make this project work.

“Orkney has already demonstrated high commitment for local sustainable energy solutions and the county is well on its way to decarbonising each aspect of the energy system.

“The target for Orkney is to have a negative carbon footprint and this pioneering project will build upon the existing local energy system, local infrastructure and local expertise, to accelerate this transition to a fully sustainable and flexible energy system.”

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