News / Huge increase in use of local renewables

THE SHARE of renewable energy used locally in Shetland’s electricity network has gone up from below ten per cent to about a third thanks to the successful conclusion of an innovative pilot project for smart grids that has now the potential to be rolled out nationally.

The £18 million Shetland based Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project was set up six years ago to increase the amount of renewables being used in a small island-based distribution network.

The project involved the installation of a 1MW battery at the Lerwick power station and new storage heaters and water tanks at 234 domestic properties, owned by Hjaltland Housing Association, to store and manage renewable energy.

Together with new monitoring and control systems this formed one of the most advanced Active Network Management (ANM) systems in the world.

The new approach enabled five renewable energy projects to be given a “managed connection” to the local grid, meaning the ANM controls how much renewable energy each scheme can feed into the system depending on current network conditions.


The five projects with a total energy capacity of just over 8.5MW are:

  • The two tidal energy projects in Bluemull Sound, the 45kW Cullivoe trial tidal turbine and the 500kW Shetland Tidal array;
  • The 3MW Luggies Knowe wind turbine to the north of Gremista;
  • The 500kW North Hoo wind turbine above the Port Business Park;
  • And the 4.5MW Garth wind farm in Cullivoe.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said the project resulted in a reduction of diesel being burnt at the Lerwick power station of between ten and 15 per cent.

SSEN head of asset management and innovation Stewart Reid said the ANM identifies when energy demand is high and what available energy there is in storage.

The same is true if there is low demand but lots of renewable energy available. In that case the system will send that energy into the storage systems to wait until it is required.

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“By creating flexible demand on the islands, through the use of smart technology and energy storage, we have made progress in exploiting and maximising Shetland’s renewable generation potential and reducing the generated output from thermal power stations,” Reid said.

This was an important achievement as it will inform the transition to a low carbon economy.

“NINES demonstrated that it was possible to fully integrate domestic properties with an ANM system and allow appliances and heating systems in the home to play their part in meeting the challenges of de-carbonising the UK’s energy systems.”

In Shetland this participation has not only served to reduce peak demand, it has also allowed a higher utilisation of renewable energy.

“There is significant roll out potential in the UK with over 2.2 million homes currently using electrical heating systems, which could adopt similar technology.”

Hjaltland Housing head of asset management Paul Leask added: “The association is delighted to be a partner in this project and hopes the learning disseminated from it can be applied at a national level and ultimately it will allow more renewables onto the national grid.”


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