Orkney continues to be at the center of the United Kingdom’s renewable energy plans, with the Scottish archipelago unveiling the ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project earlier this week. Orkney is a net exporter of renewable energy, and the project will see a range of technology implemented across the archipelago in a bid to maximize the islands’ energy production. ReFLEX will link together local renewable electricity generation, transport as well as heat networks through a digital interface that will is part of the Virtual Energy System (VES).
This £28.5 million project aims to create a ‘smart energy island’ with renewable energy at the forefront. By linking together Orkney’s energy production, local consumption demands, and electrified transportation through a single grid network, it will not only help further promote the benefits of clean energy but could also serve as a framework for future development.
The Future Of Energy Systems
The ReFLEX project is seen as the future of energy systems, as it is expected to reduce and replace fossil fuel energy production , with the UK’s Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry saying: “What we are seeing here on Orkney is a test bed for the energy system of the future. These smart systems are a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy and will provide cheaper, greener and more flexible access to energy for everyone. What we learn from these innovations could one day be rolled out across the UK and exported around the world and we’ll be able to say it was ‘Made in Orkney’.”
Funded by the United Kingdom Research & Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the project will be led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) which has been a leading figure in Orkney’s renewable energy research. Along with several other partners, the EMEC will look to diversify the archipelago’s energy demands by implementing a range of different technologies including:
- Up to 500 domestic batteries;
- Up to 100 business and large-scale batteries;
- Up to 200 Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) chargers;
- Up to 600 new electrical vehicles (EVs);
- An island community-powered electric bus and e-bike integrated transport system;
- Up to 100 flexible heating systems; and
- A Doosan industrial-scale hydrogen fuel cell.
Capitalizing On Renewable Energy
The ReFLEX project will help maximize the output of Orkney’s rich renewable resource production. Solo Energy, which is one of the partners involved in the projects, will roll out their FlexiGrid software platform to be able to monitor and control power generation in real-time. The new batteries will be charged during peak power generation and the energy stored within released when demand exceeds production. Orkney has been the location of some big innovations in renewable energy, making it the ideal place to host the ReFLEX project.
By capitalizing on Orkney’s renewable energy, the VES and ReFLEX are expected to ensure higher quality and more affordable energy services to its’ inhabitants. As such, it could provide a framework for future implementation on the mainland, with UK Government Minister Lord Duncan pointing out that: “Scotland is at the forefront of smart energy which is key to the UK Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. With £14.3 million of UK Government funding going to the ReFLEX project in Orkney, we are helping to establish the Scottish Islands as an energy powerhouse. We need cheaper, cleaner and flexible energy and Orkney will be at the heart of this.”
Framework For The Future
Apart from implementing an energy system that could have a wide-ranging effect on how the energy industry operates, VES and ReFLEX will also be promoting the use of renewable energy. Countries around the world have been striving to reduce their carbon footprint and look to various technologies to help accomplish their goals. Renewable energy has always been at the forefront of any sustainable development plans, and along with new advancements in technology, it has continued to expand its reach and overall use.
On top of reducing the islands’ carbon emissions and pioneering a new form of energy system, the project is also expected to help drive job growth and investments in the renewable energy and smart software sectors, as Rob Saunders, Deputy Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UKRI explained: “We all need energy systems that are cheaper, cleaner and consumer-friendly. We have a great opportunity with the ReFLEX project to show just how innovation can deliver this energy ambition for the future. Supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, ReFLEX can drive investment, create high-quality jobs and grow companies with export potential.”
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With islands worldwide leading the charge in renewable energy transitions and smart technology, this latest project will go a long way in cementing the importance of islands as incubators for innovation. As Orkney tests out the VES and the ReFLEX project, it will not only be working towards the creation of a flexible electricity grid and advancing cheaper renewable energy, but also be part of a roadmap for the rest of the United Kingdom to follow.