Oxford, Power Station, Project LEO, local grid, local energy

A Smart Local Energy System for Oxfordshire

Back in the 1890’s a power station in central Oxford powered a local grid that ran the city.  As demand for electrical power grew, many small local networks like this across the country were developed.  However, by 1925, such an approach was seen as inefficient and fragmented, and major review was conducted by Lord Weir.  The British Government created the Electricity (Supply) Act of 1926, which recommended that a “national gridiron” supply system be created. This was the formation of the National Grid as we know it, a back bone of high-voltage transmission lines feeding lower voltage local distribution networks.  One outcome of this, however, was that it supported a model of large centralised electricity generation; many GW of coal, gas and nuclear plants supplying the bulk of our power.

Now, in 2019, the challenges are very different.  With the need for rapid decarbonisation of electricity to mitigate climate change, not to mention the fact that renewables are now cost-competitive with traditional generation, we now have many smaller generators connected at the bottom of the electricity grid.

Which poses the question: is the old localised energy grid model a more appropriate way of managing our electricity system in the 21st Century?  Has the wheel turned full circle?

This is what a major new project, Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire), is looking to find out.

Project LEO, logo

Project LEO

Project LEO is a £13.8m project over 3 years, run by a consortium of Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks, Open Utility (Piclo), EDF Energy R&D, Nuvvé, Low Carbon Hub, University of Oxford, Oxford City Council, and Oxfordshire County Council.  The aim of the project, as the name would suggest, is to develop a local electricity market for Oxfordshire, that supplies its own needs, ensures reliable grid operation, and rewards generators a storage for the energy and flexibility they provide.

Why is this project being developed in Oxfordshire?  Currently the grid in Oxfordshire is constrained, meaning it’s hard to connect more renewable energy projects to the grid; the grid is essentially full.  There are two potential ways to solve this:

  • upgrade all the wires and substations so they can take more power. However, the expense of this could be vast.
  • Develop a smart local grid, where storage and flexible demand soak up excess renewably generated power, to allow more renewable generation to be connected without massive upgrades of infrastructure

Put another way, lets imagine a new massive solar farm was connected to the grid.  In summer the excess power would blow up the existing substations – no-one wants that!  So the first option would be to build a new substation at considerable cost.  The second option would be to find nearby users to take that excess power, which is likely to be considerably cheaper.

Local Energy Marketplace

To facilitate this, Project LEO is developing a local energy marketplace, to control and manage the operation of the ‘assets’ in a smart local energy system.  These assets might include hydro generation on the Thames which could be ramped up and down, or large heating systems such as the Bodleian book depository, which could be used flexibly according to available renewable power. It could also include smaller solar PV systems, batteries and smart EV charging.

Joju Solar to play a part

And this is where Joju Solar comes in!  We’re going to be working with our long-term community energy partner the Low Carbon Hub to deliver solar and storage projects that integrate with the Project LEO local energy marketplace.  Lots of innovation will be required.  For example, currently batteries charge from solar, and discharge to meet demand within the home.  In future, batteries will still charge from solar, but might discharge when Oxfordshire needs it, rather than when your home needs it. This should reduce costs for everyone, and allow more renewables to be connected to the grid.  However, it won’t be easy; devices will need the ability to ‘talk’ to the grid for them to be able to respond to the signals from the local market.

It’s a very exciting step for us – to go beyond simply installing generation and storage in people’s homes and businesses, and actually help create a local smart electricity grid.  We can’t wait to get started.

Further Reading

Free Installation with Joju on home battery storage

At Joju we like to pioneer the latest technical developments, and we know our customers do too.  That’s why we’re delighted to offer people the opportunity to participate in a major energy storage field trial.

  • Free Installation with Joju on home battery storage
  • Limited Availability – First come, first served
  • Store from 3kWh to 4kWh of your generated solar energy
  • Prices from £3,050 to £6,000 depending on the battery storage chosen

Joju is working with UK Power Networks (UKPN), Powervault and Sonnen to install a limited number of electricity storage products in homes in the South East of England, as part of a major trial of battery technology. UKPN are the regional electricity distribution network operator for the South East and London, and have responsibility for stable operation of the local network. The purpose of the project is to greater understand the impact domestic solar battery systems have on the distribution network, especially if they can help manage demand during the evening peak.

To encourage solar households to take part in the project, the installation of the electricity storage product, whichever you choose, is FREE. Home owners will only pay for the cost of the electricity storage product. Joju who are an approved installer, will install the products.

The trial is offering Powervault’s Lead Acid range of products and the sonnenBatterie. It is running for a limited time only. The offer is run on a first-come, first-served basis.

The scheme will involve the installation of the battery and monitoring equipment and your system will be monitored for 1 year.  UKPN may choose to operate the battery in a number of different ways in this period.

To qualify for this scheme, you must be connected to the UKPN network.  Please note this has no relationship to who your electricity supplier is – that can be anyone (Big Six, Good Energy, Ecotricity etc.).  Rather it is about who owns the distribution wires in your local area.  UKPN’s network covers the SE, London and East Anglia.  To find out for certain if you qualify and UKPN is your network operator click here and enter your postcode.

More information on the products available is below. Prices will vary from £3,050 to £6,000 depending on the battery storage product chosen.

If you qualify and are interested in taking part in this field trial, then please contact Jon Cowdrill, jon.cowdrill@joju.co.uk.

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