The Balanced Energy Network (BEN) project, led by ICAX Limited and located at LSBU, combines next generation heat networks with smart-grid technology to balance the production of heating, cooling, and electricity in a way that minimises costs and carbon emissions.
The Balanced Energy Network (BEN) at London South Bank University is an Innovate UK funded research project which began in May 2016. BEN combines next generation heat networks with smart-grid technology to balance the production of heating, cooling, and electricity in a way that minimised costs and carbon emissions.
How it works
BEN seeks to answer the UK’s energy trilemma: delivering secure, affordable, and sustainable energy. Using a ‘Cold Water Heat Network’ (ICAX) to move and store energy, linked with heat pumps and borehole thermal storage (TFGI), BEN provides the efficiency benefits of a heat network without the added pollution of energy centres in dense urban areas. BEN allows us to completely rethink how we provide heating and cooling services, simply moving heat away from a place that needs cooling, towards a place that needs heating. No combustion - just efficient energy management.
That management is enabled by a cloud based aggregator that delivers a Virtual Energy Storage (Upside). This set of algorithms tells BEN systems when to turn on and off, when to store electricity as heat, or when to deliver cooling by moving heat to storage. In short, it provides heating, cooling, and electricity at optimal times to create the world’s first Balanced Energy Network.
BEN also creates an enabling infrastructure for a host of new technologies to make the grid electricity supply more robust and efficient. For example, Mixergy hot water tanks create a ‘smart storage’ solution that both links with the Upside aggregator and improves the efficiency of heat pumps. Origen Power and Cranfield University have created a unique fuel cell that creates carbon negative electricity for BEN by actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The demonstration project at LSBU can also be linked to future buildings and energy technologies.
The UK energy system is on the cusp of changes on a scale that we have not seen since the creation of the national grid in the 1930s. The implications for BEN are considerable. At the building scale, it benefits clients by creating a heat sharing dividend. Managing the use of available energy can potentially be far cheaper than purchasing utility gas and electricity.
At the urban scale, BEN infrastructure could allow heat networks to be delivered in small increments and expanded over time, avoiding many of the barriers that currently hinder them. At the national scale, any building or system linked to a BEN style network becomes a distributed storage device, and offers a low cost balancing service to the National Grid. This helps to address many capacity challenges that National Grid faces as fossil fuel plants are replaced with more intermittent renewables.
BEN is a £4M project, of which £2.9M si funded through an Innovate UK Integrated Supply Chains for Energy Systems Grant.
The BEN project is a collaboration across a number of expert groups.
The BEN project at LSBU is led by Principal Investigator Professor Andy Ford. Prof. Ford is an expert in heat networks technologies and is a former president of CIBSE, and is currently Director of the CEREB research centre at LSBU. Previously, as founder of Fulcrum Consulting and Technical Director at Mott MacDonald, he has worked on district heating schemes from the 1970s social housing schemes through to mixed use thermal storage proposals, such as the carbon reduction master plan proposal for Kensington 1851 Commission covering the Museums and Imperial College.
The BEN research work packages is led by Dr Aaron Gillich. Aaron currently works at CEREB/LSBU as a Senior Lecturer in Energy and Building Systems Engineering. He is an engineer by trade, and his expertise is in energy efficiency policy, specifically modelling and evaluating decision making in complex systems. His current research interests include the UK energy trilemma and strategies to deliver carbon free heat by 2050.
ICAX Ltd – project leads
ICAX is project lead and coordinator on the BEN project, and is responsible for the design of the core plant elements including the high temperature heat pump and Cold Water Heat Network, in addition to the interface packages that knit the various elements of the system together.
ICAX is a cleantech company helping to meet the demand for on-site renewable energy and sustainable development by using interseasonal heat stores to achieve low carbon buildings. ICAX provides a turnkey package for meeting sustainable energy targets on construction projects. They undertake design and installation to ensure that heating and cooling needs are met in a sustainable way by recycling energy. ICAX provides a complete range of services from initial feasibility, through thermal modelling, design and delivery, to in-use maintenance.
The ICAX Cold Water Heat Network (CWHN) connects two buildings on the LSBU site, and provides heating and cooling to these and potentially other buildings on campus. The CWHN enables heating and cooling loads to be managed across the network with intelligent control to deliver the highest efficiency, lowest tariff energy. The system can integrate with developing technologies to add, transfer, or remove energy from a network, as evidenced by the integration of the Mixergy, Upside and Origen components. By using ground ambient temperatures, CWHN avoids costly insulation, and provides both cooling and heating in a single circuit. The CWHN can accept heat from the Origen system. It will provide heat pumps to enable the Mixergy demand response mechanism, and respond directly to demand prompts from the Upside platform (for enabling/disabling heat pumps for grid balancing).
Terra Firma Ground Investigations
Terra Firma Ground Investigations (TFGI) are providing the specialist drilling and pipework required for BEN. TFGI have particular capabilities in rapid well delivery in dense urban areas, and also in well development (achieving the highest possible yields). Key personnel include Mark Bradley, who is a geologist, and Charles Morrison, a highly experienced lead drill operator.
Upside Energy Ltd
Upside operates a cloud-based service that coordinates energy stored in uninterruptible power supplies, home energy storage systems, grid scale battery systems, electric vehicles, electric vehicle charge points and thermal stores (including thermal inertia of buildings), even on small sites (with power loads <50KW). This creates a Virtual Energy Store (VES) that will be used to provide balancing services to grid operators, distribution network operators and energy suppliers. They share the revenue from these services with device owners, device manufacturers and their installers, giving them an incentive to participate in the service. These revenue streams enhance the value of the equipment Upside coordinate, thus helping manufacturers grow the market for their equipment. This gives manufacturers and their channel partners further incentive to sell Upside's service, and helps increase market penetration of “green” devices such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.
Upside was created for the Nesta Dynamic Demand Challenge in 2013, with the mission to enable domestic and small business sites to participate in demand response schemes and hence help reduce the cost and environmental impact of the grid. Upside have won a number of research grants, including three from Innovate UK (under the Localised Energy Systems call of 2014, Integrated Energy Supply Chain call of 2015 and First of a Kind Infrastructure call of 2016) and one from DECC (under the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund phase 4). Recently named on the Global Cleantech 100 Ones to Watch list, Upside have won numerous awards in the last 18 months, including at the 2016 Innovation Competition at edieLive and the BusinessGreen Smart Grid Technology of the Year Award, 2016.
Mixergy is a spinout company from the University of Oxford. Mixergy have been developing novel hot water tank technologies over the course of a 4 year research project. The ambition behind this project was to understand the extent to which domestic hot water storage could help reconcile the challenge around balancing the supply of and demand for energy. This work culminated in the filing of 5 patents relating to hot water cylinders, along with a product launch into the domestic market with sales being made through Scottish Southern Energy. These systems were made by Newark Copper Cylinder limited.
Mixergy sensors within BEN's hot water tank will monitor the resulting temperature distribution, energy consumption and heat pump efficiencies that result. The following control strategies will be explored:
- central control, with demand response requests being issued from Upside’s platform
- autonomous control, where the Mixergy controller acts independently according to changes in mains frequency to provide Fast Frequency Response (FFR) whilst managing the input from the heat pump
- a hybrid of the two, where extreme frequency excursions are responded to autonomously, with Upside issuing commands to cover longer timescales
In addition to control strategies, the Mixergy tank will be designed with a conventional inlet flow arrangement alongside a novel flow path with an integral diffuser. This enables BEN to quantify the benefits of enhanced stratification, which is estimated to translate into a 10% improvement in heat pump efficiency and 20% increase in hot water capacity.
Origen Power technology uses natural gas to generate electricity in a way that removes CO₂ from the atmosphere. At the end of the process, there is less CO₂ in the air than there was at the outset. Current technology that uses natural gas to generates electricity results in ~400g of CO₂ being emitted into the atmosphere for every kWh of electricity produced - whereas using the Origen Power process to generate electricity results in the removal of ~800g of CO₂ from the air for every kWh of electricity produced.
Origen Power's solution is neither land intensive nor energy-intensive - it has a small land footprint and the process removes CO₂ from the air, even as it generates electricity. Origen Power has the potential to address the energy trilemma of delivering low-cost, low-carbon and secure energy and it will lead to the development of a revolutionary new design for power stations - power stations that cleanse the air of CO₂.
Origen Power feeds natural gas into a fuel cell to generate electricity. The heat generated breaks limestone (CaCO3) down into lime and pure CO2. It is configured so that all of the CO2 generated – both from the fuel cell and the calciner – is generated at over 99% purity. This pure CO2 can be geologically sequestered and the lime that has been generated absorbs CO2 in the air to re-form CaCO3. The process is 48% chemical-to-electrical efficient and results in the net removal of 800g of CO2 per kWh generated.
Find out more about BEN, including research focuses and its implications for sustainability.
- 2016 - Gillich, A., Ford, A., Hewitt, M. & Thompson, E. Cold Water Heat Networks and the Thermal Storage Revolution. Proceedings from the CLIMA 2016 12th REHVA World Congress. Aalbourg, Denmark. Read now (external PDF).