ICAX addresses the energy trilemma with carbon neutral solution

Posted on: 10/08/2018

Innovate UK fund project team to deliver integrated systems to balance heating, cooling, electricity and carbon.

KTN’s Complex Systems team has worked with a wide range of companies to help them combine systems and signpost them to Innovate UK funding. Some of the most notable examples have been highlighted in a series of case studies which will be published over the next ten days.

Complex Systems covers the key application areas of space, robotics and autonomous systems, data analytics and defence and security, with a focus on engineering best practice for systems, intelligent applications and large-scale infrastructure. KTN’s interests are in the scalability, adaptability, resilience and security of these systems.

ICAX addresses the energy trilemma with carbon neutral solution

The Balanced Energy Networks (BEN) project team set out to deliver both a physical and digital network to integrate systems to enable the balancing of heating, cooling, electricity, and carbon, in a way that minimises costs. The energy trilemma is the ability to deliver security of supply, at low cost, and with low carbon emissions, and is a key requirement for achieving a sustainable and prosperous economy. The project aim was to design a new form of district heating that circulates water at near ground temperature to each building on the network allowing each one to use its own heat pump to extract heat for heating, or to reject heat when it needs cooling.

Aaron Gillich, project partner at LSBU says:

“We need an energy revolution to address the 80% less carbon target by 2050 because that will mean compleletey decarbonising the heating sector. Half the energy we use in the UK in one way or another is related to the heating sector, so we need to wipe out carbon from that altogether. We need to electrify heating and get rid of gas. But when we talk about electrifying heat the challenges are huge, because it will double the demand for the grid, so we need to rethink how we provide energy for heat. Heat networks provide huge efficiency gains.

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Watch Upside Energy’s video on the technology that allows the balancing of supply and demand for electricity

But there are developmental hurdles like engineering because they need to be planned decades in advance. We need to know what the demand is going to be, who the clients are and contracts and the long-term legal issues. And this is only heating, not cooling. So the network we’re developing is called a cold water heat network, or a heat sharing network. We’re linking this with borehole thermal storage, drawing the water out to regulate the temperature of our loop. This is a proven concept. It’s already in use in the Netherlands and it doesn’t require decades of planning.”

The BEN project is led by ICAX, a cleantech company helping to meet the demand for on-site renewable energy and sustainable development by using ground source energy to achieve low carbon buildings. ICAX has developed Interseasonal Heat Transfer to enable buildings to be heated in winter with solar energy captured in the previous summer. They worked alongside London South Bank University (LSBU), where the working demonstration of the integrated system was built, and other consortium partners, in a £4 million project part funded by Innovate UK.

The Consortium set out to resolve the Energy Policy Trilemma:

·       by using heat networks

·       by using heat transfer instead of combustion

·       by delivering a heat sharing dividend

·       by accelerating the electrification of heat

·       and by employing ‘demand response’ to focus on using off-peak electricity.

Demand side response

Demand side response (DSR) can be used to shift the timing of electric demand from hours of peak demand to times of surplus supply. DSR requires a bi-directional energy grid to signal when prices are low to trigger additional use and to signal when prices are high to inhibit additional use, responding to changing price signals in real-time. Where demand side response is in place there are opportunities to exploit this further when thermal energy storage is also available. Large insulated water tanks are used in BEN to store heat that has been generated with low priced electricity for use at peak times.

The DSR technology is delivered by project partner Upside Energy, who have built a cloud service that uses advanced algorithms to orchestrate hundreds of thousands of energy storage and other electrical devices to create a Virtual Energy Store that can be used to increase security of supply while reducing the cost and environmental impact of energy. Upside has integrated the heat pumps and thermal buffers of the BEN network at LSBU into its service, enabling the network to benefit from providing balancing services to the National Grid without compromising the efficiency of the heating and cooling services it provides.


Click here for video

Watch the video – Aaron Gillich explains the component parts that add up to the Balanced Energy Network

A BEN can serve new buildings that are designed to be heated by heat pumps using modern heat emitter systems such as underfloor heating, or air handling systems, that require lower flow temperatures of around 40°C. It can also serve older buildings that have been designed to be heated using heat emitter systems that require flow temperatures of 80°C to work well, such as radiators. In these cases it will be appropriate to specify high temperature heat pumps that are capable of delivering temperatures of 80°C in order to avoid the disruption of renovating the building with modern heat emitting systems.

Advantages of BEN

The BEN Consortium can now also offer to design and install Balanced Energy Networks for those who want to save energy, save costs and save carbon on an efficient flexible clean district heating network.

The advantages of Balanced Energy Networks are that they:

·       are cheaper to install than a Combined Heat and Power (CHP)-based district heating network

·       are cheaper to run than a CHP network

·       rely on heat transfer provided by heat pumps in each building

·       do not employ combustion or release any CO2 on site

·       do not release any NOx or SOx on site so they improve local air quality

·       can provide cooling in summer, as well as heating in winter

·       allow each building to control and pay for its own heating and cooling needs

·       allow each building to earn revenue from the Renewable Heat Incentive

·       allow each building to benefit from Demand Side Response

·       can serve new buildings and existing buildings

The Renewable Heat Incentive is a grant system from Ofgem that is paid over 20 years for newly installed renewable energy systems. The largest rates are available for heating systems that do not rely on combustion: heat pumps and solar thermal panels.

The Intranet of Heat

The radical innovation of the heat sharing network at BEN allows the integration of diverse energy systems through the recovery of waste heat, delivery of simultaneous heating and cooling, links to heat storage in boreholes and provides lower installation costs by making use of existing infrastructure, none of which are possible with conventional high temperature heat networks.

Attached to the networks is a range of technologies including one which can both generate electricity and remove carbon dioxide from the air, allowing the overall system to be carbon neutral. Aaron Gillich concludes:

“This new heat infrastructure is the birth of an ‘Intranet of Heat’ where we see heat as the commodity, instead of the commodity being gas and electricity. The Intranet of Heat enables the exchange of information about sources and needs of heat and cooling and then allows heat exchange from those buildings with surplus heat to those in need of heat. Even low grade waste heat can be used as a commodity if that heat can be recovered.”

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