West Sussex virtual power plant ‘could save UK £32bn’ if replicated nationally

The VPP will be hosted across Shoreham-by-Sea (pictured) and Worthing

The project, led by energy solutions firm Moixa, was first announced earlier this month after it received £13m of funding through the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Hosted across the Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea areas, the VPP system will incorporate solar panels, batteries and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure to deliver low-carbon power and improved energy security for local council housing, private residential properties, transport infrastructure and commercial properties.

It will form the first phase of a £40m smart local energy system (SLES) across the county, with a 2MW marine source heat pump and combined heat and power system; a grid-scale 20MW battery made using second-life EV batteries; air source heat pumps supporting domestic boilers and a hybrid and hydrogen vehicle refuelling station also set to be added. The latter facility will be fitted with a 2MW solar carport and a storage system incorporating a 1MW hydrogen electrolyser.

Moixa this week revealed the timelines and funding plans for the VPP project for the first time, alongside its projections for a nationwide uptake of similar “smart” energy systems.

The first stage of the scheme will see combined solar and storage facilities installed across 250 council homes and 100 public buildings in the region during autumn 2019. These technologies will have a combined generation capacity of 4GW and a 4.2Mwh storage capacity.

Then, starting in early 2020, Moixa will begin rolling out 250 EV charging points across the region, hosting them at homes and in “strategic locations” such as schools and council depots. The chargers will be two-way and are described as “vehicle-to-everything”, meaning that EVs users can choose to send power from the vehicle’s battery to the network during times of peak demand.

Moixa will receive support from Advanced Infrastructure, Connected Energy, Flexitricity, Honda Motor Europe, ITM Power, ICAX, PassivSystems, Switch2 Energy, The Carbon and Energy Fund and West Sussex County Council to deliver these phases, which will complete the VPP aspect of the SLES. In tandem, these stakeholders will work on the additional aspects of the SLES from late 2019.

Initial predictions for the project, unveiled this week by Moixa, claim that it will mitigate around 2,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year once fully completed, reducing the average participant’s energy bill by 10% in the process. If the model were to be replicated at scale across the UK, it is believed that £32bn could be saved through reduced energy costs and infrastructure spending by 2035. 

“The lessons we learn [through this project] will help the Government to plan ahead and adapt our national energy system to the fundamental changes taking place,” West Sussex County Council’s director of energy, waste and environment Steve Read said.

“These include the growth in renewable energy supply, increasing demand for energy from EVs and other innovations, as well as the challenge of balancing energy supply and demand.” 

A boost for smart energy systems

The West Sussex project was one of four to have received funding from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) £102.5m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund earlier this month, following a selection process undertaken by members of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

A Virtual Energy System (VES) in Orkney, which aims to interlink local electricity, transport and heat networks into one system, thereby optimising efficiency and lowering emissions, is among the other schemes.

The remaining two projects will both be hosted in Oxford, The first, dubbed an “Energy Superhub”, will play host to the world’s first transmission-connected 50MW lithium ion and redox-flow hybrid battery systems as well as a network of 320 ground-source heat pumps. Electricity and energy from the facility will be used to heat and power around 300 social homes, with Cloud software and Artificial Intelligence (AI) set to be used to help the facility optimise demand and supply.

Also in Oxford, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks will work to install around 90 small-scale low-carbon energy projects, which will be connected under a distribution System Operator approach to form a “local energy marketplace”. The network will enable peer-to-peer energy trading among participants and aims to “unlock” flexibility across the City-region.

In order to have received a share of the fund, each of the projects will have had to prove that their concept could be replicated, upscaled and invested in by the end of the 2020s. 

Sarah George

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