A revolutionary energy efficiency scheme involving a new type of “smart” storage heater and western Europe’s largest battery is to go ahead in Shetland next year, despite failing to win a £24.2 million grant from energy regulator Ofgem.
On Monday Ofgem announced that the Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) had failed in its bid to the £500 million Low Carbon Fund set up to promote projects that will lead the UK’s efforts at meeting challenging emissions targets.
The £51.6 million Shetland project aims to expand the capacity of the islands’ self contained electricity grid by 25 per cent and open the door to 10 megawatts of renewable generation’
Ofgem considered it did not meet the Low Carbon Fund’s criteria, however they were so impressed by the proposal from Scottish & Southern Energy that they intend to find an alternative way to support it.
SSE insisted on Monday night that by next April they will be inviting islanders to bid for access to the grid, something which has been denied schemes like the North Yell Development Group’s five turbine proposal as recently as last year.
The expansion will be made possible thanks to a one megawatt battery, costing £1 million, to be installed next to Lerwick power station next year, and a network of 1,000 new energy efficient Dimplex storage heaters and hot water tanks in council and housing association properties.
SSE said they wanted to compare the value for money of the two systems to see if the storage heaters could be used as an alternative method of energy storage.
SIC head of environment and building services Stephen Cooper explained the system was designed to stabilise the Shetland grid by allowing energy to be stored during troughs in demand, so that more power will be available at peak times.
It should get over the problem of wind turbines only being able to generate electricity when the wind blows and not when it is most needed.
The storage heaters will also be attractive for the consumer, Mr Cooper said, cutting their energy bills and giving them more control over when they go on and off.
“This type of heating is brand new; it’s more thermally efficient, more controllable for the consumer as well as interfacing with the grid,” he said.
The entire project will be operated in conjunction with another major scheme being proposed in Shetland at the moment.
SSE have joined forces with Lerwick district heating scheme operators SHEAP to propose a three turbine wind farm at the north end of Lerwick that would heat an enormous electric kettle – a thermal store – to allow the district heating scheme to be extended.
SSE hope to be able to connect the Gremista turbines to the grid as well, but how this will be done has yet to be established.
If successful, SSE believe the storage heaters could be used to develop “smart systems” throughout the UK, allowing more renewable energy to be generated and stored effectively.
SSE communications manager Jennifer McGregor said that despite the knock back from Ofgem they expected to start the project “pretty much on time” in January and that the process of registering new renewable schemes in Shetland would “kick off in April next year”.
However the project does still await a £2 million grant to the SIC from the European Regional Development Fund which will be decided in December. allowing
SSE said they would also be introducing new commercial arrangements to encourage businesses to change the times at which they use the most energy.
The NINES project should reduce Shetland’s annual carbon footprint by around 25,000 tonnes of CO2.
SIC convener Sandy Clunesss said: “We hope to hear within the next couple of weeks that our bid for complementary ERDF funding has been successful and the NINES project can get up and running and start bringing direct benefits to the islands, including allowing more local community renewable schemes to gain access to the Shetland grid, and helping prevent fuel poverty.”
SSE project manager Frank Clifton added: “This is a project that will revolutionise the way the Shetland network operates and make it fit for a low carbon future. We aim to make Shetland’s network a blueprint for the rest of the UK.
“Trusting the bid for ERDF funding is successful, we’ll be starting work early in the new year, with one of the first things we do being to organise an event so that anyone with an interest in the project can come along and find out all about it.”
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