Heat Smart Orkney: an award winning community project

In 2016, the Heat Smart Orkney (HSO) project received £1.28 million from the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund, providing the Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust (REWDT) in Orkney, and its support partner, Community Energy Scotland, with the opportunity to develop the project to mitigate effects of the curtailment of wind energy generation being experienced by the RE&W Community Turbine located on Rousay. The turbine provides revenue to the Development Trust which supports its residents through community projects and initiatives.

Megaflo hot water cylinder installed

Secondary heating devices such as Megaflo hot water cylinders and Dimplex Quantum storage heaters were installed into homes based within “Zone 1“ of the Orkney electricity grid (see image below). The grid controls the local generators and at times of marginal curtailment of the REW generator, these devices were switched on using smart controls. This enabled local demand-side management to charge the devices and help keep the turbine producing. When the turbine received a signal to either stop or resume working as normal the smart controls switched the household devices off.

The aim of the project was to:

  • address the issue of fuel poverty by improving systems and supplementing the cost of the heating provided through the new devices by rebating householders for the energy used;
  • prove a commercially-scalable model for this supplemental smart heating and curtailment abatement (HSO Ltd) live on the local grid, whilst respecting the existing commercial arrangements of the Orkney Active Network Management (ANM) system, and not affect other essential grid activities such as the existing national demand-side management for off-peak heating;
  • respect the technically sensitive nature of the Orkney electricity grid, and to focus on aggregation technology deployed in a prudent, passive but responsive and smart manner to effectively decouple demand-side management actions from critical network management;
  • be developed, run, and led by and in collaboration with other grassroots, socially responsible organisations to retain and socialise value, share knowledge with our partners to develop practical ways to help address fuel poverty, and overall develop the wellbeing, resilience, and self-sufficiency of our communities, in addition to tackling carbon reduction.

HSO Ltd installed a total of 112 devices over the 7-island group covered in Zone 1.

Map of Orkney & Number of Households Participating in the HSO Project (yellow areas)

  • Rousay 40
  • Egilsay 2
  • Wyre 1
  • Mainland 14
  • Eday 3
  • Westray 9
  • Papa Westray 3


It had its challenges!

HSO Ltd had to adapt its service and care to meet these challenges:

  • Logistics – installing equipment over the 7 islands, organising equipment and resources; dealing with ferry timetables, refits, bad weather and tourist demands etc;  pressure when trying to meet timing deadlines set by the milestones of the Local Energy Scotland award;
  • Poor internet connections – HSO systems are dependent on the ability to use the homeowner’s broadband to provide the internet connection needed to operate the smart switching of the devices on and off.  With the poor connectivity experienced by homeowners in Orkney and the fragile state our internet system, HSO Ltd had to seek alternative options for the project.  Our contractors used internet boosters and TP Links to improve the situation and for many this proved useful. Others required alternative 4G links;
  • Staff resources – HSO Ltd  is staffed by a part time workforce. This at times caused limitations on meeting the specific deadlines with regard to its contractors.  Due to our geographical location, we have a limited pool of specialised staff and HSO Ltd is not always in the position to replace or hire in additional help to meet specific needs;
  • Types of properties available within the Orkney housing stock;
  • Aging heating systems;
  • Aging household electrical systems
  • Lack of curtailment – 2019 saw HSO Ltd begin to prove its business model with most households connected to the aggregator system.  However, during this time many of the wind turbines in Orkney underwent long term maintenance thus reducing the amount of curtailment experienced by the Rousay Community turbine. This lack of available curtailment has continued for considerable time in key periods since, due mostly to wider grid/cable failures. HSO Ltd has therefore seen the level of rebates and the amount of heating going through its devices diminished, resulting in increased negative reactions from some in the community. These unfortunate events also undermine the ability to clearly establish the future business and revenue cases needed to work towards HSO Ltd.’s plans to encourage investment by others to join the scheme after the demonstration phase.

And significant successes!

  • HSO Ltd has proven that smart switching used by the project has not had a detrimental effect on the ANM and has not interfered with the commercial demand-side management already available;
  • The HSO Project has shown aggregated smart demand side management flexibility in the ‘real world’ and has been the forerunner, and both catalyst and instigator for further larger projects like the SMILE project and ReFLEX initiative and the development of the TraDER locally and fed into and shaped this area nationally to create the sector as it develops in the next 2-5 years;
  • HSO Ltd is self-funded, has provided employment and opportunity within our community for a sustained period and the HSO system and the HSO Ltd staff have provided a service, gained significant learning, and transferrable skills directly to improve activity in the subsequent SMILE and ReFLEX projects, providing the company with the income to continue trading well beyond the initial funding period;
  • Scottish Green Energy Award 2020 – Last year HSO Ltd was awarded the SGEA for “Best Community Project”!

Over 70 properties benefited from this project. Energy fuels across project properties saw a total drop, due to displacement or efficiency measures, of 4,700 litres of oil; 8,000kg of coal and wood; and 20.4MWh of electricity. However, the benefits went beyond being able to reduce fuel costs and increase generation, including: energy advice; increased sense of ownership of local energy; increased revenue for community projects; employment for 3 isle residents.

A key aim of HSO was to reduce fuel poverty. A rebate compensated homeowners for the additional power used in their home at a higher cost than the alternative provision of heat (oil, coal, etc). Due to its success, the rebate rate was doubled to promote further incentive.

We are proud to be a partner with HSO Ltd and absolutely delighted that the staff and volunteers have been formally recognised for their hard work, passion and dedication to this project.

Peter Long, Project Manager, Community Energy Scotland

Blog written with information provided by Gill Wigley, Project Manager @Heat Smart Orkney Limited

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