Located 28 miles off the Cornwall coast, the Isles of Scilly are set to be the focus of a multimillion pound EU project led by Hitachi Europe. The Smart Energy Islands project will see the integration of a new smart grid that will use the latest software to manage supply and demand through renewable energy sources, energy storage and Electric Vehicles (EVs).
With funding of almost £11 million, the Smart Energy Islands project has several key supporters around the world. With £8.6 million from the EU’s Regional Development Fund (ERDF), £1.4 million from Hitachi and just over £750,000 coming from the Isles’ local council, Moixa and PassivSystems, the project will serve as a test bed for smart grid technology. Whilst currently served by undersea cabling from mainland UK, the project supports the council’s plans to rapidly transform the Isles’ energy infrastructure, doubling its capacity from renewables such as solar farming. The funding and interest in this project has already led to substantial development in energy-based solutions, mostly due to the localised nature of the Isles’ contained environment. Results at this scale can lead to actionable insights that are easier to implement when compared to testing on an active city environment and the demands of an already-connected infrastructure.
For example, project partners are beginning to develop unique battery storage systems that will help homes save money by using the power that they themselves generate through solar power. The Isles’ 15km road network is well suited for EVs with algorithms helping to ensure that they are deployed with the appropriate charge in-line with the wider energy grid as well as the requirements of the driver.
Energy prices are considerably higher when compared to the mainland due to the Isles’ singular power source and a lack of native gas supply. Should the Smart Energy Islands project prove successful, the Isles will have the capacity to generate and manage its own renewable energy. Whilst the project is scheduled to last 3 years, the council has clear and progressive goals for 2025 – reduce consumer energy bills by 40%, have 40% of the energy demand met by renewables and have 40% of vehicles powered by electric or by low-carbon engines.
Trialling new systems in such a localised manner can help to highlight where improvements can be made. We could soon see a similar approach taken up in other communities, cities and countries around the world, helping to turn high-carbon infrastructure into low-carbon economies in a faster, smarter and more efficient way.