A pioneering project will see Northern Ireland’s first smart microgrid emerge in the Greater Coleraine area, a $9.5 million project on Belfast Harbor, which will receive $3.04 million of funding from the UK’s Innovate scheme.
The Girona project will combine renewables, energy storage and smart grid technology to deliver cleaner and lower-cost energy to business and domestic consumers.
A smart meter will be installed in businesses or homes alongside smart devices. High demand appliances, for example, will be managed by the smart network to ensure sufficient network capacity.
“The smart technology will help get the best from the renewables elements, the local grid and individual customer’s needs. The aim of the project is to make energy smarter for consumers,” says Lorraine Farrell, growth development manager at GES Group, one of the technology partners behind the development.
Cost savings are expected to emerge through time of use pricing, which allows consumers to reduce demand at peak times. Network operators save on capital costs as more effective use of energy resources reduces the need for grid reinforcement. Furthermore, smarter management of a network can potentially expand the role of microgrid applications.
The developer has yet to determine the exact mix of resources and capacity of the microgrid, which will serve both residential and commercial customers.
The $3.04 million from Innovate aside, Girona partner companies will provide the project funding. Girona Energy, which is leading the project, is a consortium of Poweron Technologies and GES Group. The company is working with NIE Networks and Belfast Harbour to roll out the pilot scheme.
As GES’ Farrell says: “Belfast Harbor is working in partnership with Girona to develop the technology and is supporting the plans for the microgrid to expand to a large-scale test environment.”
Eddie McGoldrick, director of Poweron, said in a statement: “These innovations are an easy, inexpensive way to bring smart energy solutions like solar panels and battery storage into consumers daily lives. The microgrid isn’t just good for the environment because it uses more renewables, contributing to the net zero target, it will also see a reduction in energy bills.”
Long term, the partners plan to work with housing associations, local councils and power network companies to expand the roll out of the technology to the rest of the UK and Ireland. Says Farrell: “The project started running 1st February and it’s expected to be completed by December 2021. This is the first stage. If this project is successful, we plan to expand and go further afield in the UK.”
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