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Innovative Highlands company transforms Knoydart’s community owned grid through ETP collaboration

Innovative Highlands company transforms Knoydart’s community owned grid through ETP collaboration
Innovative Highlands company transforms Knoydart’s community owned grid through ETP collaboration

Fort William based SME, Energy Mutual, were founded on the premise that distributed energy systems can perform more efficiently if managed collectively. As such, they have combined their experience in renewable energy systems and software engineering to create an online platform that supports the community of distributed energy owners and managers around the globe and have been working closely with several off-grid communities throughout Scotland. 

Knowledge exchange collaboration

The recent Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN) project with Energy Mutual, funded through ETP, partnered the SME with the University of Strathclyde with additional support from Sensational Systems Limited and Knoydart Renewables Limited. The scope of the project was based around the deployment of sensor technology through a management and monitoring solution for the remote minigrid of Knoydart. Its aim was to develop a reliable communication medium and set of sensors that can integrate with the Energy Mutual asset management system for the control of minigrids or private networks. The solution provides asset managers and energy managers with a clearer understanding of their energy usage and the ability to optimise the consumption of energy according to the availability of renewable generation or low power prices.

The Knoydart community own and run their grid system, with 75% of the households on the peninsula being powered by their hydroelectric system that has a current maximum output of 235kW. There is an average demand of 90 kW topping out at 120kW and an occasional maximum demand, especially at New Year, of 180 kW. This means that renewables in Knoydart potentially have 115 kW of surplus electricity available, with 55 kW of headroom available even at peak-times that is only manageable through load management. 

Supporting technical innovation and local communities

There are planning efforts underway to expand the maximum generating capacity of the system due to the prospect of the community growing and demand profiles changing. This is why having greater clarity and understanding of the current energy usage will help optimise the consumption of future demand. The benefit of an efficient well managed system for Knoydart is that surplus electricity, if sold, can support the sustainable economic development of the community, and importantly secure the finances for future projects. 

ETP’s William Monteith, a Business Development Manager for Energy Distribution and Infrastructure, supported this project that not only successfully developed technical innovation but also helped the local community in Knoydart. William said:

“This type of project encapsulates the principles of a just transition when embarking on collaborative innovation to accelerate towards net-zero. 

It is exciting to see the development of these off-grid communities on their journey to net-zero, especially the six other Scottish islands that are part of the Carbon Neutral Islands project, which represents a whole energy system in microcosm. Learning from them will not only help the mainland grid system integrate and balance more and new renewable generating technologies more efficiently, but also provide a blueprint for other remote communities around the world on how to transition to net-zero.”

The Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN) offers Scottish SMEs access to resources including project funding to work with Scottish universities on innovation projects to develop low carbon technology. Find out more about the Knowledge Exchange Network here.