Smart Science Central to Newcastle

One hundred years after his death, Sir Joseph Swan’s legacy burns brighter than ever. Professor Phil Taylor, Director of Newcastle University’s Institute for Sustainability, explains why the North East is still leading the way in energy research.

"Like Swan, our focus here at Newcastle University is on finding solutions, not just understanding the problems," explains Professor Taylor.

"Balancing future energy supply and demands against economic and environmental cost is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s society and here at Newcastle we have some of the UK’s leading experts tackling the issue.”

With around 120 researchers and more than £40m in research funding over the last three years, Newcastle University is one of the UK’s leading centres for energy research. Focussing on future energy supply and demand, the team are working across traditional academic boundaries and collaborating with business, industry and other organisations to find sustainable solutions to this growing global problem.

Key to this will be the £2m grid-scale energy storage test-bed and Smart Grid demonstrator project which is being built on Science Central – the UK’s largest city-centre regeneration project and a hub for digitally enabled urban sustainability.

Science Central is being delivered by Newcastle Science City on behalf of its partners Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council and the first building – the Core – is due to open later this year.

Professor Taylor explains: “The new energy storage test bed will allow us to develop new technologies for maximising efficiency, availability and sustainability of energy across the power grid in a real-world setting.

“The 11 kilovolt network is already installed and energised and ready to go and the aim is to begin monitoring electricity flow on the site once the first building opens for business this Autumn.”

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Siemens, Northern Powergrid and the University, the smart grid is made up of sensors that are attached to electricity cables which can monitor the flow of electricity into and across the Science Central site.

The cable sensors will also monitor things like moisture and heat levels so their impact on the flow of electricity through the grid can be monitored and analysed.

As buildings go up across the site, they will also be connected to the smart grid to allow analysis right across the development in the future.

“The Smart Grid, with energy storage at its core, represents an unprecedented opportunity to cost effectively de-carbonise the electricity system while also maintaining security of supply,” explains Professor Taylor.

“Ultimately, the plan for the Science Central demonstrator project is to feed the data we collect into Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory which will be based on the site in the University’s £50 million ‘living lab’ due to open in 2017.

“Bringing it together with data from sensors across the city, such as transport and weather information, we can start to really understand electricity supply and demand in the city, as well as learning what the city and its people need in order to become a smarter, future city.”

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