Installing new energy infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, UK, is a tricky proposition, given the islands’ location 28 miles off the Cornish coast, and a population of just 2,500 to share the high costs.
But an exciting new project is about to transform the islands’ energy provision, reducing energy costs and supporting clean growth, through the use of a smart energy grid.
By 2025, the Smart Islands programme aims to provide the Isles of Scilly with 40% of its electricity from renewables, cut Scillonians’ electricity bills by 40%, and revolutionise transport, with 40% of cars to be electric or low-carbon. The key to this will be an integrated smart energy system, operated by a local community energy services company and monitored through an Internet of Things platform.
In the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, it was announced that the Local Growth Fund would provide £2.95m funding to the project, via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.
The project will be led by Hitachi Europe Ltd in a public-private partnership, along with UK-based smart energy technology company Moixa, and smart energy software company PassivSystems.
Colin Calder, CEO of PassivSystems, explained, ‘Our scalable cloud-based energy management platform will be integrated with a range of domestic and commercial renewable technologies, allowing islanders to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy independence and lower their carbon footprint.
‘These technologies have the potential to significantly increase savings from solar PV systems.’
Aiming to increase the renewable capacity installed on the island by 450kW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 897 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum, 100 homes on the islands (a tenth of the total) will be fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and two 50kW solar gardens will also be built.
100 homes will also get energy management systems, and 10 of them will pilot a variety of additional smart energy technologies such as smart batteries and air source heat pumps.
Chris Wright, Moixa Chief Technology Officer, said: ‘Ordinary people will play a key role in our future energy system. Home batteries and electric vehicles controlled by smart software will help create a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system that will deliver savings to homeowners and the community.
‘Our systems will support the reduction of fuel poverty on the Scilly Isles and support their path to full energy independence. They will be scalable and flexible so they can be replicated easily to allow communities all over the world to cut carbon and benefit from the smart power revolution.’
The burgeoning smart energy industry is attracting serious investment – only this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it will invest up to £8.8 million in new ideas for products and services that use smart meter data to reduce energy demand in small, non-domestic buildings; while Manchester-based smart energy start-up Upside Energy this week announced it had secured £5.5m in its first round of venture capital financing to commercialise and deploy its cloud-based smart grid platform.
Smart energy covers a range of technologies intended to allow both companies and households to increase their energy efficiency. Smart meters are currently being offered by energy suppliers, with the aim of allowing energy companies to automatically manage consumer energy use to reduce bills, for example, running your washing machine when energy demand (and therefore cost) is low.
Battery technology also plays a major role in smart energy, allowing users to store renewable power and potentially even sell back into the grid as demand requires. In the Industrial Strategy, the government announced a new £80m National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMD) in Coventry, which will bring together academics and businesses to work on new forms and designs of batteries, as well as their chemistry and components.
The Isles of Scilly’s small population and remote access issues make it an interesting candidate for a smart energy project. Image: NASA, International Space Station Science
The funding for this and a further £40m investment into 27 individual battery research projects have been allocated from the £246m Faraday Challenge, which was announced in July.
The Smart Islands project promises a real-world demonstration of how a community can harness the power of the Internet of Things to maintain an efficient, inexpensive, and clean energy system.
Energy storage is absolutely crucial in today’s world. More than just the batteries in our remote controls, more even than our mobile phones and laptops; advancements in energy storage could solve the issues with renewable power, preserving energy generated at times of low demand.
Advances in lithium-ion batteries have dominated the headlines in this area of late, but a variety of developments across the field of electrode materials could become game changers.
1. In the beginning, there were metals
The Daniell cell, an early battery from 1836 using a zinc electrode. Image: Daderot
Early batteries used metallic electrodes, such as zinc, iron, platinum, and lead. The Daniell cell, invented by British chemist John Frederic Daniell and the historical basis for the volt measurement, used a zinc electrode just like the early batteries produced by scientists such as Alessandro Volta and William Cruickshank.
Alterations elsewhere in the Daniell cell substantially improved its performance compared with existing battery technology and it became the industry standard.
2. From acid to alkaline
Waldemar Jungner: the Swedish scientist who developed the first Nickel-Cadmium battery. Image: Svenska dagbladets årsbok 1924
Another major development in electrode materials came with the first alkaline battery, developed by Waldemar Jungner using nickel (Ni) and cadmium (Cd). Jungner had experimented with iron instead of cadmium but found it considerably less successful.
The Ni–Cd battery had far greater energy density than the other rechargeable batteries at the time, although it was also considerably more expensive.
3. Smaller, lighter, better, faster
Organic materials for microbattery electrodes are tested on coin cells. Image: Mikko Raskinen
Want your electronic devices to be even smaller and lighter? Researchers from Aalto University, Finland, are working on improving the efficiency of microbatteries by fabricating electrochemically active organic lithium electrode thin films.
The team use lithium terephthalate, a recently found anode material for a lithium-ion battery, and prepare it with a combined atomic/molecular layer deposition technique.
4. There’s more to life than lithium
50-70% of the world’s known lithium reserves are in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Image: Anouchka Unel
Lithium-ion batteries have dominated the rechargeable market since their emergence in the 1990′s. However, the rarity of material means that, increasingly, research and development is focused elsewhere.
Researchers at Stanford University, USA, believe they have created a sodium ion battery with the same storage capacity as lithium but at 80% less cost. The battery uses sodium salt for the cathode and phosphorous for the anode.
5. Back to the start
Advances are also being made in the electrode materials used in artificial photosynthesis. Video: TEDx Talks
Hematite and other cheap, plentiful metals are being used to create photocatalytic electrode materials by a team of scientists from Tianjin University, China. The approach, that combines nanotechnology with chemical doping, can produce a photocurrent more than five times higher than current approaches to artificial photosynthesis.
You can read an interview with the recipient of SCI’s 2017 Castner Medal, who delivered the lecture Developments in Electrodes and Electrochemical Cell Design, here.