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Project LEO – Local Energy Oxfordshire

One of the UK’s most ambitious, wide-ranging and innovative energy trials, seeking to accelerate the UK’s transition to a zero-carbon energy system

About the Project

Project LEO – Local Energy Oxfordshire – is running trials in Oxfordshire to build a broad range of reliable evidence of the technological, market and social conditions needed for a greener, more flexible, and fair electricity system

Read more about our Trials in the case studies below

  • Asset led trial

    Asset led trial:Oxfordshire County Library – a potential battery

    This trial aims to learn if it’s possible to use buildings as batteries to provide flexibility to the electricity network. Background Project LEO is investigating how buildings can be used as batteries to provide flexibility in a low carbon future. LEO partners, Oxfordshire County Council and the University of Oxford, are working together to test…
  • Asset led trial

    Asset led trial:Sandford Hydro trials

    This trial is looking to see if we can use the river as energy storage and provide flexibility to the energy network. Background Sandford Hydro is a hydroelectric power plant on the River Thames near the village of Sandford, just south of Oxford. In 2016 Low Carbon Hub opened a community energy share offer and…
  • Place based trial

    Place based trial:Westmills Smart and Fair Neighbourhood Trials

    This smart and fair neighbourhood trial is looking at how the combined Westmill solar and wind farms, along with potential battery storage, could enable participation in local flexibility markets. The project will also investigate the opportunities for commercial innovation relating to community investment in a large-scale battery project and community led leadership in a zero…

LEO partners

Project LEO is a collaborative project crossing business, academia, social enterprises, and local authorities. It is part funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge fund to support
the global move to renewable energy called: Prospering From the Energy Revolution (PFER).

WITH FUNDING FROM

Oxfordshire County Library – a potential battery

This trial aims to learn if it’s possible to use buildings as batteries to provide flexibility to the electricity network.

Background

Project LEO is investigating how buildings can be used as batteries to provide flexibility in a low carbon future. LEO partners, Oxfordshire County Council and the University of Oxford, are working together to test this technology at the Oxfordshire County Library. The Library is the main public library in central Oxford and holds over 500,000 items available for loan. The Library is owned and run by Oxfordshire County Council.

This building is of particular interest to LEO as libraries tend to have relatively low, non-critical, uniform use throughout the week and as such, presents an ideal environment for testing the provision of flexibility services. Secondly, a library, through the very nature of the building and its contents, has a high thermal inertia (acting as a heat battery) which affords the building internal resistance to temperature and air-specific changes. This presents the potential opportunity for providing flexibility with minimal disruption to the building’s services and users. 

Aim of the trial

We are running MVS trials at the Oxfordshire County Library, testing how a building can provide flexibility to the electricity network by altering the time of use of electricity (by changing the demand for air conditioning) within the building. The trials will explore and unlock the potential of the building to play a part in delivering flexible energy. 

The core idea is to temporarily shift (or modulate) the use of air conditioning, for example, making sure that demand does not occur at times when the grid is congested. Coordinating this operation to make use of the buildings thermal mass, even if the chiller is switched off in the summer, the temperature inside the building should not rise immediately due to the energy stored within the walls and contents of the building. 

Switching off the air conditioning can bring about a large reduction in the electricity consumed by the building. This contributes to relieving the stress on the electricity grid, helping to maintain stability of the network in a way that removes or delays the need for network upgrades. 

What we hope to do

Through the trials being conducted on this building, we hope to increase our understanding of just how much flexibility this building – and others alike – could provide the electricity network with. The trials will allow the team to develop a business case for enabling similar assets to provide a flex market services. 

Initial trials are also trying to understand the amount of data, metering and monitoring required throughout the building in order for any potential flexibility service to be appropriately managed and validated. 

The team also hope to learn if altering the temperature set points of the building will affect building users and if so, understand the upper and lower limits of any temperature changes to minimise impact on users whilst still being able to provide a flexibility service.

How the trial works?

The trials undertaken at the Library will involve a series of tests which turn up and down the energy demand of the building through either changing the temperature set point (increasing/decreasing air conditioning use), or fully deferring the air conditioning load for some time intervals during the day. 

The team have collected data from the Building Management System (BMS) as well as from additional ad-hoc prepared temperature and electrical load sensors to understand patterns of energy use of the building and to synthesise and validate a theoretical building model to be use in the optimisation of the flexibility service delivery. 

Who is involved?

Oxford University is running this trial with the support of Oxfordshire County Council. 

Sandford Hydro trials

How can we store electricity generated by the hydro?

This trial is looking to see if we can use the river as energy storage and provide flexibility to the energy network.

Background

Sandford Hydro is a hydroelectric power plant on the River Thames near the village of Sandford, just south of Oxford. In 2016 Low Carbon Hub opened a community energy share offer and raised the funds to build Sandford Hydro. The hydro uses three Archimedes screws (similar to the one in operation at Osney Lock Hydro) to generate electricity from the flow of the river water.

Key Sandford Hydro facts

  • Fully commissioned in August 2017
  • 440kW installed capacity
  • 1.6GWh annual generation of clean electricity
  • 1.1 tonnes CO2 emissions prevented every day
  • 500+ households supplied with clean energy
  • Fish pass allows all species to travel up river for the first time in 400 years

Aim of the trial

Since the start of 2021, Low Carbon Hub Operations Manager, Harry Orchard, has been carrying out Minimum Viable System (MVS) trials at Sandford Hydro as part of Project LEO. The trials at Sandford will explore and unlock the potential of the hydro to play a part in delivering flexible energy. This means being able to increase or decrease energy generation or turning up and down energy demand.

A Minimum Viable System is the minimum set of participants, technologies and practices required to test a new process, service, or asset. Referred to as MVS trials, our experiments help us to explore how effectively flexibility services can be delivered and highlight the benefits these provide to the network and the trial participants and wider community.

The MVS process allows us to test the flexibility services in a step-by-step fashion, helping us to thoroughly understand what does and doesn’t work well. We can then review the process, ironing out the bugs before rolling out flexibility service participation to a wider audience.

What we hope to do & learn

We already know that energy storage will be a large part of how we use energy as a society in the future. The most obvious form of storage is a battery but using Sandford Hydro we are exploring a different way of storing energy for use at a later time – using the river. By slowing down one or more of the hydro’s screws, we can slowly build up a reserve of excess water upstream of the hydro, which can then be utilised to generate extra power when required by simply speeding the screw(s) up again.

The MVS trials that are taking place at Sandford Hydro largely consist of slowing down the screw(s) by a certain amount for a certain period of time, before speeding them up again, all the while measuring the impact on the hydro’s power output and the river level upstream. This allows us to measure how much energy can be stored in the river, and for how long we can use this additional power to provide flexibility services. With hydro generation being very seasonal (peaking in winter and lowest in summer), doing trials regularly throughout the year helps us to build up a picture of how best to utilise the hydro to maximise the benefit to the electricity network.

Who is involved?

These trials are managed by the Low Carbon Hub.

Westmills

Smart and Fair Neighbourhood Trial

This smart and fair neighbourhood trial is looking at how the combined Westmill solar and wind farms, along with potential battery storage, could enable participation in local flexibility markets.

The project will also investigate the opportunities for commercial innovation relating to community investment in a large-scale battery project and community led leadership in a zero carbon local energy system.

Background

The Westmill site, at Colleymore Farm in Oxfordshire, is home to the UK’s first community-owned solar and wind farms. In addition to the existing wind and solar generation, outline planning for a battery on the site is also in place.

Westmill Solar and Wind Co-ops pass on community benefit funding to a charity, Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust (WeSET), for educational work, local energy conservation and renewable energy initiatives. A Smart Grid CIC has been established to progress a storage facility development and together these four make up ‘the Westmills’.

Being among the first community-owned schemes in the UK, the Co-operatives have a long established and engaged membership of approximately 3,000 members between them.

The Westmill Co-operatives started out to make green energy, now they want to shape how it is used and the relationship energy users have with their energy system in order to reap the benefits for our local and member communities.

Aims of the trial

The original goal of the two co-ops was to help decarbonise the energy system. This still holds true, but the focus has now evolved from simply generating clean energy to influencing the efficient, effective and smart use of this energy.

This project is in its early stages, but some potential project aims are emerging. The trial hopes to:

  • Work out what flexibility services the Westmill assets and a potential battery could provide to the network.
  • Work out potential business models for electricity storage options on site.
  • Work out how local and membership communities can take part in flexibility services.
  • Work out how Westmill site can help to meet local energy needs by matching local generation with local demand.

What we hope to learn

We hope the Westmills SFN trial will give us a better understanding of how renewable energy assets within an engaged community could participate in flexibility markets.

As we are in planning stages of the project, these are some draft outcomes for the project. By the end of the project, we hope…

  • To have created a shared vision for local energy co-created and developed by the Westmills
  • Members and local community have been able to inform the share vision and have been part of the process to understand what their energy needs are and might be
  • The Westmills understand the part they can play in emerging flexibility markets and utilised this to shape the way electricity is generated, stored and distributed.
  • The business models for a storage facility have been identified.

Who is involved?

Representatives from the Westmill Solar and Wind Co-ops, Smart Grid and WeSET working alongside the Low Carbon Hub.

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