Community Energy Scotland in Orkney is taking the lead for the whole UK as the European Union explores ‘Smart Island Energy systems’ – ways for islands to capitalise upon their energy resources.
SMILE joins a suite of projects across Scotland where CES is working with partners to overcome grid constraints so that community owned renewables can create local confidence and value, help people reduce their energy costs, strengthen local services, and promote skills and employment.
Increasing and managing the local electricity demand in Orkney will allow more renewable energy generation. Generators there are frequently curtailed due to the limited grid capacity within the island archipelago. When community owned wind turbines increase their electricity production, the proceeds directly benefit the local residents.
Several approaches are being tested, including:
Integration of battery technology
Electric power to heat
Electric power to fuel
Electricity stored aboard boats
Home heating and electric vehicle charging will be a large part of the Orkney trials.
Local partners will upgrade already established equipment to be more energy efficient and to act in a ‘grid-smart’ way – in other words with the ability to respond to and assist the local electric grid and renewable energy supply.
Operating in real-life conditions will show how well the electric vehicle chargers, domestic heat pumps, household batteries and hot water stores suit local circumstances.
Key to making it work will be ensuring participants in the project experience little or no disruption to their normal routine.
The SMILE project – www.h2020smile.eu – has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 731249.
ReFLEX – Responsive Flexibility – is widely regarded as an energy system of the future and will be demonstrated in Orkney by a consortium of six locally-based partners.
April 2019 – The first phase of a new £28.5 million project to create an Integrated Energy System (IES) in Orkney, Scotland, was launched to digitally link distributed and intermittent renewable generation to flexible demand
The ReFLEX Orkney project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind IES interlinking local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system
The creation of a ‘smart energy island’ is the ultimate aim of the project, demonstrating the energy system of the future, reducing and eventually eliminating the need for fossil fuels
The project is funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
ReFLEX Orkney Ltd and the ReFLEX website was launched in December 2020
“This brilliant news is built on the high level of collaboration between enabled communities and energy innovators in Orkney. A successful partnership that has started to show how we can supply and manage local energy in a more sustainable and equitable way, and, with this project, we all have an outstanding opportunity to further test and develop the new, fairer, and better future models of ownership and value systems pioneered by communities like those in Orkney“
Nicholas Gubbins, CEO of Community Energy Scotland
At the heart of the project is the demonstration of flexible energy balancing technologies. For example, the project aims to deploy:
Up to 500 domestic batteries
Up to 100 business and large-scale batteries
Up to 200 Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) chargers
Up to 600 new electrical vehicles (EVs)
An island community-powered electric bus and e-bike integrated transport system
A FlexiGrid software platform, newly designed by one of the partners, will be put into effect, enabling 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.
These technologies will be introduced under attractive leasing-type finance and novel ways of ownership with the aim of the end user avoiding major capital investment – this will include individuals and local organisations.
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.
“We need cheaper, cleaner and flexible energy and Orkney will be at the heart of this.
“We all need energy systems that are cheaper, cleaner and consumer-friendly. We have a great opportunity with the ReFLEX project to show just how innovation can deliver this energy ambition for the future. Supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, ReFLEX can drive investment, create high-quality jobs and grow companies with export potential,”
Rob Saunders, Deputy Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UK Research and Innovation
Once demonstrated and proven in Orkney, it is expected that the IES model and associated integrated energy service supply framework will be reproduced in other areas across the UK and internationally, building long term export opportunities for the ReFLEX project partners and helping to expand the flexible and renewable-based energy systems.
“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’,”
Claire Perry, Energy and Clean Growth Minister 2017-2019
Update: The ReFLEX project drew to a close on 31 March 2023.
The ReFLEX project has resulted in many significant changes for Community Energy Scotland, the project partners, and the Orkney communities as a whole. The partnership collaboration, along with the funding from the UK Government’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PfER) fund, enabled multiple successes during the last 4 years. In addition to the overarching achievement from all the partners, CES was able to build upon local efforts to shift the transport sector towards zero emissions with the expansion of electric vans and bikes on four of the islands, and support the growth of a fully electric car club. Our support to homeowners in Orkney included the rollout of over 100 energy monitor, to allow access to real-time data on how people are using energy within their home, together with work where we assessed the project’s customer offerings to be as inclusive as possible. CES is grateful for the opportunities presented through the project’s funding, and has already begun building upon the results and learnings achieved as a result of it.
Watch the YouTube video here for the detailed outcomes and lessons learned.