Moixa to build virtual power plant as first phase of UK smart energy project


London-based Moixa plans to develop a virtual power plant (VPP) that will combine PV, battery storage and electric vehicles (EVs). The installation is part of a broader plan that could span hundreds of households, schools and other buildings in the southern U.K. county of West Sussex, near Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea. It will be the initial phase of a three-year, £40 million Smart Hubs smart local energy system (SLES) project, backed by West Sussex County Council and infrastructure group the Carbon and Energy Fund.

“This project will show how solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles at home and in the workplace can play a vital role in creating a smart, low-carbon energy system,” said Chris Wright, Moixa’s chief technology officer. “It will demonstrate the benefits of linking power, heat and transport in one local system and showcase U.K. expertise in an emerging global smart grid market.”

The VPP will include a grid-scale battery system composed of secondary EV batteries, as well as a marine source heat pump with a combined heat and power installation. It will also feature air source heat pumps to back domestic boilers in addition to a hybrid refuelling station for EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the nearby town of Horsham.

£32 billion of national savings

Moixa is part of a U.K. consortium which has already obtained £13 million from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The company plans to allocate £7.2 million of the funds at its disposal to the mixed-asset VPP, which will initially aggregate up to 2 MW of capacity. It claims the project will be the first in the U.K. to include batteries from different manufacturers, along with EVs that will be plugged into the network.

The consortium aims to demonstrate how power, transport and heating technologies can be combined to reduce electricity bills, lower emissions and back the development of smart grids. Members believe the Smart Hubs SLES project could reduce electricity costs by 10%, with the potential for £32 billion of savings if deployed at national level.

Flexitricity, an Edinburgh-based demand-response specialist, will manage the VPP once operational, with the aim of eventually establishing a 17 MW system combining different smart technologies.

Moixa’s GridShare software will combine more than 1 MW of extra capacity from batteries installed in homes, schools and council offices, which the company says will be sufficient to facilitate trading in most markets. The system will provide services to National Grid as well as other energy companies and distribution networks. It expects to add another 1 MW of capacity to the VPP once EVs are brought on board.

Heat for up to 1,000 homes

In the autumn, Moixa will start installing 4 MW of PV capacity and 4.2 MWh of battery storage at 250 council homes in Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea, as well as 100 schools and council buildings. Its GridShare platform will then use artificial intelligence and machine-learning to customize the performance of the systems to the needs of customers.

By the end of the year, consortium partners will start working on other smart systems, under the direction of consortium member Advanced Infrastructure. Those elements of the broader project will include a 2 MW marine source heat pump from ICAX that will be connected to a combined heat and power network built by Switch2, a provider of district heating technologies. It will eventually supply heat to more than 1,000 homes in Shoreham-By-Sea.

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The group will also start installing air-source heat pumps alongside gas boilers in the town this year to establish a hybrid heating network. Upon completion, consortium member PassivSystems will manage that part of the scheme. Newcastle-based Connected Energy will provide a 20 MW storage system featuring second-life EV batteries.

EVs will ramp up project

The consortium will build a hybrid vehicle refuelling station in Horsham to provide rapid-charging for EVs and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. It will be supported by a 2 MW solar carport as well as storage from a 1 MW hydrogen electrolyzer. Carport specialist Flexisolar will provide the EV charging facility and solar carport installation and ITM Power will manage the system and provide hydrogen technology. Upon completion, the systems will offer 7.65 MW of generating capacity and roughly 17 MW of storage.

From early next year, Moixa will install 250 EV chargers in homes and strategic public building clusters. It will use GridShare to understand the usage patterns of drivers and ensure their vehicles are cost-effectively charged when needed, whether from the project’s solar panels, batteries or off-peak grid energy.

When EVs are connected, V2X – vehicle-to-everything – chargers will use their batteries to power homes and offices. The chargers will be able to feed electricity into the network during peak demand periods. EVs generally have 30 kWh batteries – six times the size of the household storage batteries to be used in the project’s trial phase. Moixa says EV batteries will play an increasingly critical role in the VPP project as adoption picks up.

Infrastructure savings

Honda Motor Europe, a partner of Moixa, will offer support to fully exploit the use of EVs that will be integrated into the regional energy system in West Sussex and Honda will be one of several manufacturers to supply V2X chargers for the project.

The consortium hopes to introduce a new model that will serve as a blueprint for similar projects in other parts of the country. It believes nationwide deployment could help the country save £32 billion on infrastructure development through 2035, while encouraging the development of renewable energy and heat pumps, as well as the deployment of more EVs.

“The lessons we learn will help the government to plan ahead and adapt our national energy system to the fundamental changes taking place,” said Steve Read, director of energy, waste and environment for West Sussex County Council. “These include the growth in renewable energy supply, increasing demand for energy from electric vehicles and other innovations, and the challenge of balancing energy supply and demand.”

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