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NINES to revolutionise local grid

A UNIQUE attempt to overcome the limitations of Shetland’s electricity grid and make it fit to accepting more renewable energy could make an impact on local consumers and energy producers as early as next year.

The Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project has been described as a demonstration project that could lead the energy revolution across the UK.

The £46 million project brings together Scottish & Southern Energy and a number of organisations and funding partners including Shetland Islands Council, Hjaltland Housing Association, Shetland Heat Energy and Power (SHEAP), the University of Strathclyde and Glen Dimplex.

After securing public funding from Europe and the UK government the smart grid initiative was launched with around 100 invited guests attending a small ceremony at the Shetland Museum and Archive, on Thursday night.

The complex project, which will apply new technology to better balancing the peaks and troughs of energy usage, has never been tried out anywhere else in the world.

Shetland emerged as the ideal testing ground for this new approach because the isles’ grid is not connected to the national grid and has already reached its capacity for accepting intermittent wind energy.

An additional driver in the project was the fact that SSE has to replace its Lerwick power station this decade.

Features of NINES are:

•Installing ‘smart’ storage heaters and hot water tanks in up to 1,000 homes which can help balance the electricity network;

•Adding a new electric boiler to the existing district heating system, which will be associated with the proposed 6.9 megawatt Gremista wind farm;

•Deploying new technology on the network that will allow more small scale renewable generators to connect to the network;

•Introducing new commercial arrangements to encourage businesses to change the times at which they use most energy; and

•Installing a 1 megawatt battery, part-funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, at Lerwick Power Station.

Introducing the project on Thursday night, SSE’s chief executive Ian Marchant said the project would turn an old analog network into a smart and digitalised system.

“NINES allows us to put more generation into the system. As everybody in Shetland knows the current network is full. By moving load around, NINES allows us to make better use of Shetland’s resources.

“There are some world firsts, such as the use of the water heating. The battery we are importing from Japan is not a world first but it is a European first. Linking it all together and its active management, we believe, nobody is trying this anywhere else on this scale.

“Shetland is a great place to learn if the theories in the textbooks and manuals actually work in real life,” he said.

He added that with the Help of NINES, the utility would also to configure the type and size of its new power station in Lerwick, which will replace the existing 60 megawatt station which burns diesel.

“Fact is that the power station in Lerwick will need to be replaced in the next few years. The time to learn is now so to make sure that we make the right investment decision in the next few years.

“If we could level the load through smart storage and NINES, we will run the generators more efficiently and that reduces the fuels costs – so this is about a smaller and a more efficient station,” he said.

“We hope that the NINES project will be open for business later this year, we will get the active network management system installed at the turn of the year, and then the project goes as fast as the community wants it to go.”

Mr Marchant added that for the first time in the company’s history SSE had been able to employ a young local graduate engineer on the isles. As project engineer Nathan Coote will be the first point of contact for islanders interested in getting involved in NINES. He can be contacted at Nathan.coote@sse.com

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