8 Mar 2023
SSCA's field visit to Keele University to see their renewable energy park
Mike Bourke, Susan Lockwood and Clive and Kate Dyson visited Keele University on Wednesday 8th March 2023 to see the renewable energy park and the Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND).
Keele University operates its own electricity distribution network, so is in a good position to experiment, somewhat isolated from the grid. It has two wind turbines, generating up to 1.7 MW, and an array of 12,500 solar panels, generating up to c. 5.5 MW. It also has a c. 2 MWh battery. On the cold, clouded winter day of our visit it was supplying about two thirds of the energy demand of the campus. There is also an export grid connection rated at about 1 MW.
Alongside the energy park, it has been running a Smart Energy Network Demonstrator project, with support from Siemens (I believe it’s had research funding as well). This controls the generation system, use of electricity across the campus and export to / import from the grid.
SEND also provides support to local enterprises, assisting them to develop energy-efficient low carbon solutions, and adding 120 new jobs and £40 million gross value added (GVA) to the regional economy.
The University also carries out research and development in relation to low-carbon technologies, new energy products and data management systems.
For example, it successfully trialled OFGEM’s Hydeploy project to inject 20% Green hydrogen into the University’s wholly owned gas network, testing its safety in the existing pipes and boilers and reducing carbon emissions by 7%. This project is now being taken forward on a larger scale in Gateshead, involving local homes, schools and other public buildings. Keele is also participating in a consortium of eight regional universities in the HyDEX programme to promote a new hydrogen industrial economy.
During our visit we viewed the energy park, and learned of its positive impact on local biodiversity. During a (much warmer!) time spent in the impressive control centre we learned about the monitoring systems, the relationship of renewable energy developments to the planning regime, and the constraints of a decentralized community system like this in relation to the National Grid.
This is a marvellous regional resource, and we hope to arrange further visits by key local organisations. We are most grateful to the staff of SEND for such a memorable learning experience.