Strategy & management

SSEN says project has enabled renewables to meet up to 30 per cent of the islands' energy needs

An £18 million smart grid trial on the Shetland Islands has been hailed as a success by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

The network operator says its five year long Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project has shown the ability of smart grids to operate reliably with high levels of renewable penetration.

It has also demonstrated scope for incorporating millions of UK home appliances into actively managed electricity distribution networks, said SSEN.

The scheme tested the use of a new active network management (ANM) control system alongside domestic demand-side response (DSR) and utility-scale energy storage to enable the increased integration of renewables into the islanded power grid.

“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 SSEN head of asset management and innovation Stewart Reid.

“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.”

Reid said the project had proven that domestic properties and their appliances can be effectively integrated into an ANM system. “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,” he added.

The trial was largely funded through special conditions in SSEN’s electricity distribution license although it also benefitted from grants of around £1 million from the Low Carbon Networks Fund and the now defunct Department of Energy and Climate Change.

It included the installation of a 1MW battery at the diesel-fueled Lerwick Power Station and the fitting of new smart storage heaters and hot water tanks in 234 homes with the help the Hjlatland Housing Association.

Five renewable generation schemes have now been integrated into to the ANM system, including the 3.7MW Burradale wind farm. The last project was connected in March and its full impact on the system is only just beginning to be felt, according to SSEN.

The electricity network on the Shetland Islands is completely isolated from the national grid in the UK. SSEN says the NINES project has enabled renewables to meet up to 30 per cent of the islands’ energy needs – a “significant increase” from beforehand – and that the percentage could rise even further. The scheme has also led to a 10 per cent reduction the amount of diesel burnt at Lerwick Power Station. 

The trial officially concluded on 31 December 2016 and a closedown report was submitted to Ofgem at the end of March. SSEN says a learning outcomes report will be published shortly. 

This story first appeared on the website of Utility Week’s sister publication, Network

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