Intelligent Transport, Heating and Electrical Control Agent – Itheca

Birmingham is leading the way with multiple district heating networks (DHN) powered by natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) engine systems. These networks provide heat and electricity to key buildings and areas across the City including Aston University, Birmingham New Street Station and Birmingham Council House amongst others. These district networks are currently being joined together to create a city centre wide network.

During operational hours, CHP systems are usually used for their electricity production and so a significant proportion of the heat produced is not utilised. Itheca addresses these inefficiencies which restrict the environmental and economic potential of existing localised energy systems, as well as the viability of potential new systems. Birmingham’s own DHN will be decarbonised by connecting the European Bioenergy Research Institute’s heat generation as a third party heat exporter. The EBRI generator, located on the Aston University campus, can be fuelled by biofuels – organic wastes such as sustainable bio-liquid fuels, food waste and sewage sludge – rather than fossil fuels. The improved system will also incorporate interoperable distributed energy technologies to enable the energy system to access some of the new revenue opportunities in the future energy system. In times of surplus generation capacity the system will self-balance itself by charging electric vehicles (EVs), whilst in times of high demand the vehicle charge can contribute to the building demand. The project will see the instalment of the first bioenergy powered EV charging infrastructure in Birmingham’s city centre.

The Itheca project is also developing innovative control software to manage the distribution of energy throughout the DHN, optimising revenue generation and carbon savings, and helping National Grid to balance the electricity system through a new frequency response product. This innovation will enable small-scale generators and sites with under-utilised generation assets to access a host of balancing market services, passing value to the site owner rather than back to less efficient centralised power generators.

The project will:

  1. Demonstrate the first commercial interoperation of small-scale bioenergy generation with a city wide heat network;
  2. Advance and demonstrate the potential of vehicle to grid (V2G) infrastructure in supporting intelligent localised energy systems;
  3. Demonstrate the increasingly important role of localised energy systems in supporting the traditional energy system through demand side grid management;
  4. Integrate the project innovations into an intelligent control agent that will continuously maximise the system efficiency, service and profit.

Itheca offers not just improved efficiency but also social and environmental benefits too in the form of greater localised energy provision with less reliance on ageing infrastructure, job creation opportunities, a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels, and the ability to utilise organic waste produced locally to provide low carbon energy.

The project is funded by the UK’s innovation agency,Innovate UK, and runs from January 2015 to June 2017.

Itheca Project Partners: