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Energy ‘show home’ facility opened on AMRC’s Blackburn site

As the manufacturing industry struggles with rising energy costs and pressure to decarbonise, an energy solution which the proponents say ‘couldn’t come at a better time for businesses’ has been successfully installed at AMRC North West in Blackburn in Lancashire.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is ‘a world-class centre for research into advanced manufacturing technologies used in the aerospace, automotive, medical, and other high-value manufacturing sectors’. The AMRC reportedly has a global reputation for helping companies overcome manufacturing problems, and is ‘a model for collaborative research involving universities, academics, and industry worldwide’. The University said: ¨Combining state-of-the art-technologies with the AMRC’s expertise in design and prototyping, machining, casting, welding, additive manufacturing, composites, robotics and automation, digital manufacturing and structural testing, has created a manufacturing resource far beyond anything previously available in the UK.”

Two battery energy storage systems (BESS) supplied by Connected Energy have been successfully integrated on the Blackburn site to link to a range of renewable technologies. The installation is designed to show how energy costs and carbon emissions can be controlled by manufacturers of all sizes, and in buildings of any age.

The BESS will be linked to two types of photovoltaic panels, one standard rooftop array, and another comprising two smart flowers which open and track the sun through the day. It will enable the site, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s (AMRC) network of research and innovation centres, to store and use its own ‘clean energy’, keeping the centre on its green tariff at all times, and serving as the data ‘heart’ of a new fully digitised building and manufacturing site.

AMRC  North West said: “With operational machinery and production lines using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the site will be a manufacturing energy ‘show home’. It will allow manufacturers see how they can achieve what, at present, might seem impossible – manage and reduce energy bills, reduce carbon emissions ,and yet increase energy consumption and security.”

AMRC North West says the £2.5 m project at AMRC North West, supported by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through the government’s Getting Building Fund (GBF), will ‘create a roadmap for manufacturers that will enable them to cut the carbon footprint of older facilities, and achieve Net Zero by 2050’.

Ben Smith, Low Carbon Smart Building specialist at AMRC North West (pictured), said: “Any business with renewables on site could hugely benefit from a battery storage solution. For us, it will allow us to maximise the energy generated from our renewables. For others like those in construction and manufacturing – two of the heaviest carbon polluters per person and the hardest to change – it will show what steps can be made with a BESS on the ground”.

AMRC North West points out that businesses have seen energy costs ‘increase dramatically’, with bills of over £1million per annum now ‘not uncommon’. Energy bill reduction is just one benefit of new energy technology that the AMRC site will demonstrate. It said: “Electricity consumption in the UK is predicted to increase by 50 per cent by 2035 (according to a report by McKinsey & Company, Facing the future: Net zero and the UK electricity sector), yet many businesses already face grid constraints. The battery storage units at AMRC North West mean it will never have to increase its electricity capacity, even when more equipment is installed, and always be able to operate within its green tariff by storing energy from the renewables on site.”

The choice of BESS from Connected Energy was particularly important with respect to environmental credentials, being made from second life vehicle batteries, each system using 24 Renault Kangoo 15 kWh batteries. Matthew Lumsden, CEO at Connected Energy, said:

“We are very proud to be chosen by the University of Sheffield AMRC for this project, which will become the hallmark of energy best practice for the manufacturing sector. Being a demonstrator site is especially important to us, as it allows us to showcase some of the major benefits of introducing battery storage into a commercial setting.”

AMRC North West said: “The entire system will showcase how an intelligent approach to energy can reduce costs and carbon emissions in manufacturing. For example, by using AI and data modelling, the BESS can be automatically programmed to provide energy to the site at peak production times, using excess renewables or at times when tariffs are higher. By installing a BESS, manufacturers will be able to automatically switch between the system and the national grid to minimise costs and maximise revenue through arbitrage. The AMRC site will take this one step further, to automatically coordinate meteorological data with BESS data, so that it is prepared in advance to maximise revenue opportunities around weather conditions.”

Connected Energy describes itself as ‘a world-leading innovator of energy storage systems that utilise second-life electric vehicle batteries’. The company’s E-STOR and M-STOR units have a modular and scalable design that can reportedly be adapted to control any electric vehicle battery pack. The company said: “Our systems can elongate the life of an EV battery pack by up to an additional 10 years, and provide grid service revenues, solar optimisation, EV charging support, import capacity avoidance, peak shaving, and micro grid balancing services. Systems can provide a positive carbon benefit of 450 tCO2e for every 1 MWh installed compared with a first life BESS.”


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