On the Scilly Isles, solar PV, smart batteries and EV charging, connected by Internet of Things (IoT) technology, and a new energy tariff, could show how islands can decarbonise and do sustainability, cost-effectively.
The Isles of Scilly archipelago, which lies 28 miles from the coast of Cornwell, south-west Britain, is challenged if it wants to become more self-sufficient and sustainable in terms of energy consumption.
Legacy energy issues
In the past the islands’ energy needs were met by a power station built in the early 1930s on St Mary’s, the most heavily populated island in the archipelago. In the late 1980s, a 33kV cable was installed by the local utility, now Western Power Distribution, to import electricity from the mainland grid, reducing the power station to a standby role and supplying electricity during seasonal winter peak demand periods.
With 270kW solar PV already installed, with the potential to install up to 2MW, there is a limit in terms of surplus that can be
exported to the mainland grid, especially in the summer months, due to the high penetration of solar PV capacity.
Islands that have taken steps to decarbonise their electricity supply by installing wind turbines and solar PV panels, need to be able to optimise self-consumption of renewables generation, otherwise they continue to face a double whammy of higher energy and also fuel costs, from reliance on shipping in fuel. The Isles of Scilly have a higher share of fuel poverty rates than the national average: 22.4% against 10.4%.
Not only that the Isles of Scilly has no local system for dealing with different types of waste. What cannot be composted is sent to the mainland, which is costly. Sewage treatment is limited and requires investment.
Islands benefit from holistic approaches
On mainlands, infrastructure and utility assets are operated, managed, maintained and upgraded in isolation of each other. Because island communities are smaller, the challenges of decarbonising energy and transport, dealing with waste, processing fresh water, can be addressed sustainably and more cost effectively when considered in the whole.
The Scilly Isles Smart Islands programme, co-financed with an initial investment of £10.8 million project by the European Regional Development Fund, could pave the way for low carbon sustainable island communities.
It is not the first island regeneration initiative to adopt such holistic approach. In the Asia-Pacific, the REIDS project is doing something similar, but on a bigger scale and adapted to the needs of island communities in the tropics.
The nuts and bolts of the Smart Energy Island project
The Smart Islands programme was announced in 2017, but this year will see it install the various components, of the first
initiative, which is focused on addressing some of the islands’ energy challenges.
The components include residential behind-the-meter batteries, energy management systems and electric vehicle (EV) chargers that will be aggregated and intelligently managed can align surplus solar generation with demand, including EV charging.
The Smart Energy Islands project is led by Hitachi, with Moixa providing its smart home batteries. Through its GridShare virtual power plant (VPP) platform, Moixa will aggregate the EV chargers and the home batteries.
The respective home battery and EV charging VPPs will be connected up to Hitachi’s IoT platform, which will also manage aggregations of energy management systems that are able to control heating systems, to balance supply and demand of electricity. This will allow the island and its residents to install more renewable generation capacity in future, decreasing dependence and reliance on the mainland grid.
Through its IoT platform Hitachi will ‘represent’ the utility for the purposes of the project. The Japanese company has deployed similar versions of its IoT platform in smart communities and energy projects, including one in Greater Manchester, in north-west England, and the other on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Development and testing of the platform for the specifics of the Isles of Scilly Smart Islands Energy project is still underway.
The EVs, home batteries, smart heating technologies and other infrastructure will be installed in homes and businesses.
The Smart Energy Islands project will increase installed solar PV capacity, which stands at 270kW, by a further 450kW, on 100 homes, which equates to about a tenth of the islands’ housing stock.
In the coming months Moixa will install batteries in five homes and is also developing the EV management system, which will control and optimise how electric car batteries can be used by the islands’ energy system. Moixa will install one test vehicle and one test charging point on the islands later in 2018, for integration into Hitachi’s IoT platform.
The other technology partner is PassivSystems, which is installing energy management and monitoring systems in nearly 300 homes and businesses.
The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a partner in the project and is providing some of the match-funding, via the Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership. It will own the batteries and the first pilot EV charger.
All the participating households, therefore, are tenants of the council that live in homes suitable for the proposed technologies. In addition, five non-domestic rooftop PV installations and one solar PV garden are being installed on council land.
Additional electric vehicles and the islands-wide charging network will be delivered in a separate project later, either later this year or in early 2019, as part of the wider Smart Islands Programme. The exact number of vehicles and charging points will be confirmed later in 2018.
New energy tariff
A new energy deal will be launched on the Isles of Scilly during May 2018 and will, at some point, include a mechanism to share benefits with customers and reduce energy bills.
Delivery of the tariff will be done by the new Isles of Scilly Community Venture, in partnership with a regulated energy supplier, which was recently launched to spread the benefits of a range of projects among islanders and community businesses.
Jim Wrigley, manager of the Isles of Scilly Community Venture, says: ‘We aim to share the benefits of a range of Smart Islands projects with the community, ensuring a long term positive legacy of assets that retain value for islanders and businesses.”
As well at the current portfolio of projects under the Smart Islands programme, the Community Venture is working on possible future projects aimed to increase the energy efficiency of buildings, contribute to the decarbonisation of heat and increase the volume of locally produced renewable energy on the islands, including from waste sources.
“Key to this will be developing solutions that meet the needs and solve problems for the community and over the coming months we will be working hard to engage and understand these views,” says Wrigley.
The Community Venture has several key tasks in its early days, including recruitment of a board of directors and an advisory group to help give it strategic direction and ensure that its community purpose becomes embedded.
The initiative’s benefits will not happen overnight but Wrigley hopes that should bills on the mainland increase, those on the isles will go down.
By 2025 the Smart Islands programme aims to cut electricity bills by 40%, meet 40% of energy demand through renewables, and see electric and low-carbon cars make up 40% of vehicles.