SmartHubs Project Making Major Headway in West Sussex

This article was originally published on on May 27, 2020.

Data modelling, systems design, and detailed planning are all moving at full speed for the SmartHubs Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES) project in West Sussex, with implementation planned to safely ramp up when lockdown restrictions ease.

The timing of the project is apt as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told global leaders at the virtual Petersberg Climate Dialogue that it is the “duty of every responsible government” to reboot economies along climate-resilient lines. He went on to add: “This means investing in industries and infrastructure that can turn the tide on climate change.” Leading green business coalition, the European Corporate Leaders Group (CLG Europe), is also urging EU leaders to put decarbonisation and green jobs at the core of their coronavirus recovery strategy.

SmartHubs is a £31 million demonstrator to integrate decarbonisation of heat, transport and energy across social housing, transport, infrastructure and private residential and commercial properties. Part of the funding is provided through the Government’s modern industrial strategy by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation. Their ‘Prospering from the Energy Revolution’ challenge is an overall £102.5 million investment from the government to develop smart systems that can support the global move to renewable energy.

The project, which aims to revolutionise the way energy is generated, stored, shared and consumed, features homegrown UK Clean Tech pioneers jointly rising up to grapple with the challenge of the energy transition. SmartHubs brings together innovative technology systems and business models to deliver a replicable, scalable, distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) of the future.

Led by energy storage specialists Connected Energy the SmartHubs consortium comprises the following organisations:

PassivSystems – hybrid low-carbon home heating systems using air source heat pumps, learning predictive controls, demand aggregation and time-of-use cost avoidance controls to complement gas and oil boilers.

– ITM Power – generation of zero-carbon hydrogen gas for transport.

– ICAX – sustainable heating from recycled heat using a marine source heat pump.

– Moixa – software solutions to integrate, manage and optimise output from all the renewable energy and energy storage systems in a virtual power plant (VPP). Moixa also delivers smart, low carbon energy generation (PV), storage and EV charging solutions.

– Newcastle University – data analysis and system modelling for the project.

– West Sussex County Council – alongside local partners Adur & Worthing council, will support deployment of all assets within the county in order to meet their carbon goals and commitment to renewables.

– Connected Energy – energy storage specialists focussing on the systems that utilise 2nd life electric vehicle batteries.

“SmartHubs is a massive project for a massive challenge, working with a local authority committed to both the Climate Change Agenda and supporting SME scale up,” said Matthew Lumsden, Connected Energy CEO and Chair of the SmartHubs Steering Committee. “Bringing together innovative technologies and integrating them on this scale is an exciting proposition and one we are keen to see replicated up and down the country to help manage the climate emergency we’re facing. Working on a project like this during a global pandemic is a challenge but it’s more important than ever that we can create a replicable model for the rest of the UK to follow.”

“The technologies involved in the project have differing degrees of maturity and therefore are attractive to different types of investors–part of the challenge when bringing together energy systems is not only the physical integration of the technologies, it is also to find appropriate investors to co-fund the project and understand the holistic nature of it.” said Matthew.

Rob Saunders, Challenge Director, Prospering From the Energy Revolution, UKRI“The climate emergency is one of the most serious issues facing the world and the PFER challenge is a crucial component of the UK’s strategy to address and drive forward the actions required to shape clean energy for the future. The SmartHubs demonstrator has shown a revolutionary approach in combining expertise and innovation across energy generation, storage and usage with game-changing technologies combined into a cleaner, more flexible system that is fit for the future. Investing in these energy systems of the future – more localised, more intelligent and built on renewable sources to deliver cheaper, cleaner energy – will be central to the UK’s net zero plans and the SmartHubs project has shown the potential to be an exciting part of this strategy.”

The SmartHubs VPP, powered by Moixa’s GridShare technology will aggregate and manage the large fleet of hybrid systems across transport, heat and power to deliver flexibility services into ancillary markets ensuring system reliability and delivering a stronger, cheaper, cleaner grid. Moixa will also provide up to 350 smart solar panel and battery systems to deliver sustainable, low-carbon energy to social homes, schools, businesses and the local public sector in West Sussex. Up to 250 electric vehicle charging points to support the transition to low carbon transport will also be installed.

Interseasonal heat transfer firm ICAX is designing and installing a marine source heat pump to transfer heat from the sea water in Shoreham Harbour to heat adjacent buildings of the Shoreham Port Authority using a district heating system.

PassivSystems will install 250 air source heat pumps (ASHP) with smart controls in domestic social and private residences both on and off gas grid. Learning algorithms analyse multiple data points within the homes to learn their thermal properties. Weather information and user behaviour will then be overlaid to predict user demand; this is then used to optimise the efficiency of the heating system and will enable aggregation to respond to demand side response (DSR) opportunities. Throughout the life of SmartHubs PassivSystems will further develop its smart controls and operating platform to improve social landlord and tenant interfaces and enhance demand forecasting to support VPP outcomes.

ITM Power will investigate the feasibility of integrating electrolyser based hydrogen refuelling systems into a localised energy system. Hydrogen generated from renewables can provide zero carbon fuel for transport and support the local energy system with a 2 MW load which can be switched on or off, enabling better management and control of the electricity system.

Lead partner Connected Energy will deliver a 12 MW in-front-of-the-meter battery energy storage system in Sompting West Sussex, as well as up to nine 300 kW behind-the-meter battery systems across the region, and up to five EV charging hubs with integrated photovoltaics and battery energy storage. These systems will use over 1,000 second-life electric vehicle batteries and add grid balancing, grid load management and resilience services to the project. The 12 MW system alone has a total capacity of 14.4 MWh, the energy equivalent of powering 1,695 average homes for a whole day*.

Newcastle University’s Electrical Power Research Group’s socio-technical research will use mathematical methods in order to evaluate the whole series of network management techniques used in the project. The team will bring modelling expertise to SmartHubs, providing a detailed technical understanding of the performance parameters of each technology to be deployed.

Steve Read, Director of Environment and Public Protection at West Sussex County Council said: “We are delighted to be part of the SmartHubs project. This is an exciting opportunity and recognition of our growing reputation for delivering successful, pioneering energy projects such as our solar farms, battery storage projects and Solar Power for Schools programme.

“The lessons we learn will help the Government to plan ahead and adapt our national energy system to the fundamental changes taking place. These include the growth in renewable energy supply, increasing demand for energy from electric vehicles and other innovations and the challenge of balancing energy supply and demand.”

SmartHubs is one of four Innovate UK demonstrator projects to be built over the next 3 years to illustrate how integrated intelligent local systems can deliver power, heat and mobility to users in new and better ways.

*Based on UK households using 3,100 kWh per year.