Eco-villagers prepare for next stage of green energy research project

Feb 06, 2014

A consortium of researchers led by Heriot-Watt University has been awarded 2.8 million Euros (£2.3 million) to develop a 'smart energy hub' which will attempt to synchronise the demand for energy within a neighbourhood to the availability of locally generated renewables.

ORIGIN Research Project

The ORIGIN research project, led by Dr Edward Owens of the Institute of Infrastructure and Environment in the School of the Built Environment, is being funded by the European Commission and will be piloted over three years in Findhorn and in eco-villages in Portugal and Italy.

Dr Owens will be working with researchers from the University of Strathclyde, as well as Universities in Germany, Spain and Portugal, to develop a community scale energy management system.

Dr Owens said, "Thousands of householders and businesses have installed in the last few years. However, often the energy is not generated at times of peak demand, finding a way to match periods of supply with periods of demand will create much more efficient energy systems."

Dr Owens added, "The system will forecast renewable energy supply and energy demand, at both individual building and community levels. Groups of buildings in a community will then be connected via our smart energy hub and a series of energy controllers in each building.

"Residents will then be asked to plan when they use energy, such as using hot water or a washing machine, to maximise the uptake of community-generated renewable electricity. They will also be able to read 'recommendations' from the community hub to inform them when locally generated energy is available for them to use."

The Findhorn Community

Initially the system will be demonstrated at around 75 homes and public buildings at the Findhorn Community in Moray. They will benefit from the new system, as well as another 100 homes and public buildings across the two eco-villages in Portugal and Italy.

Information from the hub will be transmitted through devices such as tablets or smart phones allowing residents greater control over their energy use, which could result in savings of up to 40 per cent on their electricity bills.

Michael Shaw, founding member of The Ecovillage Institute and resident Trustee of the Findhorn Foundation, said, "We're delighted to be one of three eco-villages piloting the ORIGIN project. This innovative scheme enables the matching of energy generated within the community from wind turbines, solar panels, biomass district heating and heat pumps, with the energy requirements of our , community homes and businesses.

"It will also put the Findhorn Foundation Community on the map as a centre of excellent for designing and building one of the most energy efficient and low-carbon village-scale environments in the country."

It's hoped that the technology will help achieve progress towards meeting Scottish Government and EU targets for reducing climate change emissions by increasing use of clean energy.

The intelligent prediction and optimization software at the heart of the energy hub will be developed in the Department of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University.

Key issues for the hub will be to ensure that:

  • Energy generation and demand within a group of residential and community buildings are monitored
  • The information is fed into a central computerised hub
  • Residents are then given live, up-to-date information via iPads (or similar devices) that helps them schedule energy use at times of supply
  • This means that they will use a greater proportion of the energy they generate from embedded devices such as photovoltaic panels, so the system will potentially maximise the use of and minimise the need to import from the grid.

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