STORY Power Generation

99.9 percent energy availability thanks to microgrid

Posted on November 16, 2023 by Katherine Wooltorton

How do you ensure sufficient power when the grid supply is constrained?’ This was the challenge facing the British energy service developer BasePower Ltd. The solution - a 2MW microgrid
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Global supply chains have faced significant challenges over recent years. Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary obstruction of the Suez Canal have all impacted the import and export of essential products and highlighted inadequacies in national reserves.  

"This has caused a visible change in the UK landscape”, says Robin Hardy, Co-founder and Projects Director of BasePower Ltd, a growing energy services developer focused on delivering sustainable, low-cost and high-efficiency solutions that enable the UK’s energy transition.  “The demand for storage has ballooned, resulting in warehouses being developed all over the country,” explains Robin. “The race is on to try and satisfy that demand, but  the market will peak at some point so the speed at which new sites can be developed is critical.”

Capacity, cost and sustainability

For the past six years, BasePower has been working with industrial and logistics developer Tritax Symmetry to bring resilient and green energy to their strategically located logistics parks around the UK. Often, these are in areas where the grid capacity is constrained and, in some cases, is completely unavailable for new developments.  

“What we find when we develop out these sites and look at new sites, is that the grid really is constrained. Some areas have zero additional grid capacity for development. As long-term owners of the site, we need to be responsive to our customers’ needs. So, in order to future-proof the sites and provide green, resilient power, we developed the Energy Services model with BasePower,” explains Tom Leeming, Development Director of Tritax Symmetry.  

Situated just north of London with fast access to the national motorway network, Symmetry Park Biggleswade is a key development for Tritax Symmetry and its customers. Using renewable energy, the site delivers on Tritax Symmetry’s commitment of net zero carbon emissions during construction while also helping Tritax Symmetry and its clients achieve their long-term sustainability targets for ongoing operations. To do so requires up to 2MW of reliable power 99.9% of the time.

“This kind of project poses a trilemma of challenges: capacity, cost and sustainability,” continues Robin. “Can we generate enough power to facilitate normal operations? Can we provide the right amount of resilience so that if one asset falls over, we have backup? And how can we provide all these things while configuring an energy centre which can deliver the most efficient and sustainable source of power with the assets we have?”  

Rolls-Royce has supplied an mtu microgrid solution for the energy supply of a logistics park in the UK. It will supply efficient, climate-friendly electricity and heat and support the local grid supply. The energy system includes three mtu CHP units, two mtu EnergyPack battery containers, two mtu emergency gensets and the complete microgrid control system.

To do this, BasePower needed an integrated solutions partner to help them design and deliver significant amounts of resilient power, while enabling the decarbonisation of processes over time.  

A resilient microgrid solution  

BasePower led the detailed work, procurement, construction and commissioning of the project, and selected Rolls-Royce business unit Power Systems with its brand mtu to deliver a fully integrated microgrid solution. Alongside expertise in enabling a reliable, autonomous and integrated energy solution, Rolls-Royce Power Systems was able to directly supply three of its mtu Series 4000 Combined Heat & Power (CHP) plants, two mtu EnergyPack QL battery storage containers and two mtu Series 2000 standby generators.  

Two mtu QL EnergyPack battery storage systems with a total capacity of 2.3 MWh will store electrical energy to respond quickly, flexibly and carbon-free to fluctuating load demands, and serve as the sole source of electricity during periods of low demand.

Each component asset which makes up the microgrid is controlled by a central smart microgrid control system. Connected through a fibre optic communication network, the controller is able to identify load requirements, calculate the most efficient distribution of power and deploy sufficient assets while keeping enough power in reserve to provide electricity even in the event of utility grid or asset failures.    

The microgrid also connects to photovoltaic panels installed on the rooftops of the buildings themselves, serving as an additional sustainable power generation asset. Designed with future decarbonisation in mind, the microgrid will continue to support larger amounts of solar energy as the number of on-site renewable sources increases.  

In addition to this, the three CHP plants installed at the Biggleswade site have the ability to run on hydrogen with only minor modifications, enhancing the site’s ability to run on renewable and low-carbon power once this becomes available.    

“Sustainable power is something we expect the whole grid to transition to over time. We wanted a system that was flexible and able to decarbonise with the rest of the UK power network and that was part of a key strategy in procuring the Rolls-Royce Power Systems solution. Most of Tritax Symmetry’s clients have made their own pledges to achieve net zero so providing them with a roadmap of the steps we’ll take to get them there is really helpful,” explains Robin.  

Support on hand 24/7

Alongside the development and delivery of the microgrid itself, BasePower has also selected Rolls-Royce to provide a five-year ongoing mtu ValueCare Agreement. This means the site will have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access to a team of engineers that can be on-site in as little as 30 minutes in the event of any issues with the system.

Rob Pitt, Director of Operations at Rolls-Royce Solutions UK, the UK’s subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, explains: “At Rolls-Royce, our priority is to deliver on the power uptime availability of 99.9%. In real terms, that equates to only nine hours a year that we can fail to deliver the power demand of the development up to the maximum contracted 2MW output.

The Energy Centre is covered by a 365/24/7 mtu Value Care maintenance agreement and, if needed, the Rolls-Royce Service team can be on site in as little as 30 minutes.

“Overall, the microgrid is designed to run completely autonomously and with resilience at its core. This means that, in the unlikely event of any component failure, there’s always a backup in place to deliver the occupants’ power requirements. Alongside that, our call-out engineers and the wider Rolls-Royce business are on-hand to provide support whenever it’s needed.”  

Rolls-Royce’s proactive real-time web-based monitoring system automatically alerts the on-call engineers enabling them to diagnose and even resolve system issues remotely. In the event of a site visit, a crash kit of spare components is available on site and carried in the engineers’ service vehicles to facilitate a speedy resolution.

In it for the long haul

For both Rolls-Royce and BasePower, Symmetry Park Biggleswade has been a lighthouse project for the design and development of a fully integrated microgrid with new challenges that needed to be overcome.  

“The capability around switching from grid to something self-sufficient was quite new to us,” explains Robin. “But together with Rolls-Royce, we’ve managed to develop that solution over the course of the project and test it numerous times to ensure it would be ready for operation. Rolls-Royce is a much larger organisation so we often work in different ways but being able to pull in multiple experts has been really helpful and I don’t think we would have been able to achieve what we have without that breadth of knowledge and experience on a wide range of technologies.”

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