Irish households to get switched on to future of renewable energy
System developed by Glen Dimplex to be piloted in 800 Irish homes
Rowena McCappin of Glen Dimplex: the project aims to demonstrate how small-scale energy storage systems withing people's homes can provide benefits to the whole energy supply chain
One of the main obstacles to the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources has been availability, or rather lack of it. Wind energy is intermittent and cannot be relied upon to deliver power as and when you need it and solar is naturally only available during the day.
Battery technology is still not up to the task of storing the energy for use on the grid when it is required and the only viable option at present is to have spare traditional generating capacity waiting to be fired up at short notice when renewable sources become unavailable.
This situation could change quite dramatically thanks to a pilot project being run by an Irish-led consortium comprising 13 energy organisations and academic institutions in five EU countries.
The €16 million RealValue project has received €12 million in funding under the EU Horizon 2020 research programme and will use the heating systems of 1,250 homes in Ireland, Germany and Latvia as one large aggregate “battery” for renewable energy – storing it when there is an excess of such energy available and using it only when required by the householders.
According to project director, Rowena McCappin of Glen Dimplex, the project aims to demonstrate how small-scale energy storage systems within people’s homes can provide benefits to the whole electricity supply chain, from generation and distribution, through to wholesale markets and suppliers and ultimately to the end consumer.
At the heart of the project is the Glen Dimplex-developed Smart Electric Thermal Storage System (SETS) which links back to a platform developed by Intel which in turn connects each home to the grid, allowing the electricity provider to communicate directly with the home-heating system and alerting it when excess renewable energy is available.
For the electricity providers, this will improve the efficiency of renewable generation and aid moves towards decarbonisation while consumers will have the opportunity to benefit from variable tariffs which are likely to be introduced by energy companies in the future.
McCappin points out that work on this concept in Ireland actually predates the RealValue project. “A consortium involving Glen Dimplex, SSE, Eirgrid, Intel, UCD and ESB Networks began work in this area five years ago,” she notes. “The RealValue project is the next stage in confirming the potential of the technology.”
Glen Dimplex decided to apply for Horizon 2020 funding for the project. “We worked very closely with Enterprise Ireland on the application,” she says. “Philip Cheasty of Enterprise Ireland is the national contact point for secure, clean and efficient energy projects under the Horizon 2020 programme.
“You need at least three EU member states participating in a project to qualify for funding and Philip was enormously helpful in finding partners as well as in developing the overall project.”
The result was a consortium which represents a unique collaboration between public, private and academic institutions. It encompasses each stage of the energy industry – transmission, distribution, generation and supply – while also embracing leaders in the technology sector and academic organisations.
Its members are: EirGrid; ESB Networks; SSE Airtricity; Glen Dimplex; Intel; Oxford University; the UCD Energy Institute incorporating ERC, the Electricity Research Centre; German energy services company BEEGY; Germany’s fifth largest energy retailer MVV; DIW (German Institute for Economic Research); VTT, the technical research centre of Finland; Rigas Technical University of Latvia; and Glen Dimplex Deutschland.
The technology has been installed in 200 of a planned 800 homes in Ireland so far; installation is about to begin on the first 100 of 400 homes in Germany; while the remaining 50 in Latvia will be complete by the end of the summer.
The project is scheduled to run until 2018 and it is hoped that it will demonstrate how local small-scale energy storage combined with advanced ICT can bring benefits to the entire EU energy system.
These benefits include greater integration of renewable energy sources, improved quality and security of supply, the development of variable tariffs to match demand and supply fluctuations, and improved energy affordability as well as a reduction in carbon emissions.
There are also clear benefits for Glen Dimplex and other energy services providers. “Glen Dimplex is a manufacturing company, not a research organisation,” McCappin points out.
“But by collaborating in a consortium like RealValue we can demonstrate the business case for the Smart Electric Thermal Storage System which we market under the Quantum brand. The project will also help make Glen Dimplex more widely known in Europe and help us penetrate more export markets. Working in partnership with the other consortium members has also brought new knowledge and skills into the company that we didn’t have before this.”
Consumers will also benefit through improved comfort levels at lower long-term costs, she adds. “By upgrading to the more controllable and efficient Quantum system, consumers can save up to 25 per cent on their electricity.
“We are also developing a smartphone app to allow them control their heating systems from anywhere at any time and this will allow them to ensure that they are heating their homes and water only as and when needed – that’s a considerable lifestyle advantage.”