One of the issues hindering the widespread adoption of renewable energy in Ireland is the unpredictability of renewable energy sources. As we all well know, the sun does not always grace us, but at night it disappears entirely. Wind energy is equally as unreliable, turbines often sitting still for days on end. There is also the determining issue of battery life. It still hasn’t progressed to an adequate capacity to be able to store energy for use on the grid when it is needed. We still need to rely on traditional generating capacity in order to the fill the energy void.
However, an Irish led consortium is hoping to soon change all that. The €16m RealValue project has received funding of €12m under the EU Horizon 2020 research programme. Involving 13 energy organisations and academic institutions in five EU countries, the project will use the heating systems of 1,250 homes in Ireland, Germany and Latvia to create one large aggregate “battery” for renewable energy; storing all excess energy available and using it only as it is required. The project will demonstrate how small-scale energy systems in people homes can prove to be a substantial benefit to the electricity supply chain as a whole.
The project, led by Rowena McCappin of Glen Dimplex, hinges on their newly developed storage technology, the Smart Electric Thermal Storage System (SETS). Their system works by linking to a platform developed by Intel which connects each home to the grid, allowing the electricity provider to communicate directly with the home-heating system which gets alerted when excess energy is available to be stored.
The benefit of the system include efficiency in renewable generation, making a positive step towards decarbonisation, as well as the possibility to benefit from any future implementation of variable tariffs, which are likely to soon be introduced by energy companies.
Before it became RealValue the concept for the project had already been in the works for five years. The original consortium involved Glen Dimplex, SSE, Eirgrid, Intel, UCD and ESB Networks. The potential of the technology has now been confirmed by the backing of the EU.
However, in order to qualify for Horizon 2020 at least three EU member states had to be involved. The result was a consortium made up of public, private and academic institutions, encompassing each stage of the energy chain, from transmission to distribution, and from generation to supply. It’s members include 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.
So far, the technology has already been installed in 200 homes, with another 800 to take place in Ireland. The first 100 of 400 SETS are about to be installed in Germany, with the remaining 50 being installed in Latvia by the end of summer.
The project will run until 2018, but its benefits will hopefully stretch far beyond that. If it proves to be successful, it will help promote small-scale energy storage across the EU, it will also benefit integration of renewable energy, improve the quality and security of supply, enable the development of variable tariffs to match supply and demand fluctuations, improve energy affordability, and reduce carbon emissions.
There are also obvious benefits for Glen Dimplex. As a manufacturing company, this project is likely to be a great promotion for their product. Not only will it demonstrate the financial feasibility of the Smart Electric Thermal Storage System, but it will make Glen Dimplex more widely known throughout Europe. Working in a consortium of other businesses has also created a channel bring new knowledge and skills into the company.
As well as saving energy, the new technology will be a great convenience to users. Temperature will be much easier to control, and a smartphone app currently in development will allow them to access the system from anywhere at any time, meaning they can always come home to a warm house without having to worry about wasting energy.