Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Shetland Islands project pioneers smart grid technology

Steve Rogerson
June 20, 2017

A smart grid and energy storage project on the Shetland Islands has demonstrated the power of renewable energy.
The five year long, £18m Shetland-based Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (Nines) project has demonstrated that an islanded electricity distribution system can operate securely with a high penetration of local renewable generation.
The project, which was run by Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), trialled domestic demand side management (DSM) and large-scale energy storage, combined with monitoring and control systems to manage the electricity network on the islands. Together these elements formed an advanced active network management (ANM) system. Thanks to the learning gained from Nines, more ANMs are being rolled out elsewhere to help the transition towards low carbon networks and realise smart grids.
The findings from the Nines project have shown that greater volumes of renewable generation can be connected to a distribution electricity network by using smart technology to manage how and when the energy is used, while maintaining system reliability and safety. For example, thanks to the ANM more than 8.545MW of new renewable energy has been connected on Shetland, which represents a trebling of renewable energy capacity on the islands.
As part of the Nines project, five renewable generation schemes were given a managed connection through the ANM system. This connection controlled when and how much each scheme could generate according to the prevailing network conditions on Shetland at any given time. The last of the generators was connected in March and while the impact is only just beginning to be felt the daily average of renewable generation on Shetland is already reaching thirty per cent of energy requirements. This is a significant increase from before the Nines project and the percentage has the potential to go even higher.
The installation of a 1MW battery at Lerwick Power Station was used to help provide a stable electricity network and reduce demand peaks. In addition, by working with Shetland-based Hjaltland Housing Association, storage heaters and hot water tanks were installed, along with communications devices to provide DSM capability within 234 domestic homes. The battery stored the renewable generation at times of low demand so it could be used at a time when it was needed to supply people with electricity or heat. When operated through the ANM this combination of storage and DSM has directly resulted in the reduction of diesel used at the station by about ten per cent.
The battery worked in collaboration with the ANM system, which was the first of its kind in the UK. The ANM identifies when energy demand is high and what available energy there is in storage. It will automatically rebalance the network to make sure people receive the electricity they need. The same is true if there is low demand but lots of renewable energy created. It will send that energy into the storage systems to wait until it’s required. If there is not enough energy being generated or in storage it will then automatically call on thermal generation to help balance the system.
“By creating flexible demand on the islands, through the use of smart technology and energy storage, we have made progress in exploiting and maximising Shetland’s renewable generation potential and reducing the generated output from thermal power stations,” said Stewart Reid, head of asset management and innovation at SSEN. “This was an important achievement as it will inform the transition to a low carbon economy. It also offered us the opportunity to trial the technology in an environment which could then be applied to the wider-GB electricity network. The support for the project has been superb and we would like to thank the customers that participated in the trials. Their involvement was crucial to its overall success”
The project’s findings will be crucial to the wider-GB electricity network as it transitions to a low carbon economy and the greater adoption of renewable energy sources at a local community level, such as solar panels. The Nines project partners included Hjaltland Housing Association, Smarter Grid Solutions, Glen Dimplex, University of Strathclyde, Airwave Solutions and S&C.
“Being a part of the Nines project gave us the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock and also making the local grid more responsive, which in turn allowed more renewables to connect,” said Paul Leask head of asset management and investment with Hjaltland Housing Association. “This project has enabled the association to meet the Scottish governments energy efficiency standards for social housing well in advance of the compliance year of 2020 and has provided our tenants with the opportunity to reduce their energy bills with more controllable heating and hot water systems. The association is delighted to be a partner in this project and hopes the learning disseminated from it can be applied at a national level and ultimately it will allow more renewables onto the national grid.”
SSEN is sharing the project findings with the wider energy industry as they will provide valuable insight into the technology and processes required for the electricity industry’s transition from a distribution network operator to a distribution system operator.
“Nines demonstrated that it was possible to fully integrate domestic properties with an ANM system and allow appliances and heating systems in the home to play their part in meeting the challenges of de-carbonising the UK’s energy systems,” said Reid. “In Shetland this participation has not only served to reduce peak demand on Shetland, it has also allowed a higher utilisation of renewable energy. There is significant roll out potential in the UK with over 2.2 million homes currently using electrical heating systems, which could adopt similar technology. We would like to thank all our project partners and the customers that participated in the Nines project. With their help and support we were able to successfully deliver the project, which will benefit the Shetland Isles and the wider UK electricity network system.”