UK National Grid adopts Scotland’s new Flexitricity demand turn-up system to harvest ‘waste’ wind

Dr Alastair Martin
Dr Alastair Martin

An Edinburgh-based smart grid specialist has developed a new system which claws back currently ‘wasted’ wind energy.

Flexitricity – Britain’s largest demand response provider has developed ‘Footroom’ – an automated service that helps manufacturers and other industry increase demand and therefore production – when wind turbine output is highest.

Flexitricity has been providing “headroom” to National Grid – extra energy from industrial users when there’s not enough coming from traditional power stations – since 2008. 

‘Footroom’ is the opposite – it’s used when renewable sources are producing more than the system can cope with.

National Grid has now adopted Footroom under a service called Demand Turn-Up (DTU), under a draft service agreement. DTU will launch as a pilot this May, targeting the toughest periods in summer when both solar and wind generation can be high while demand is low

But Dr Alastair Martin, Flexitricity chief strategy officer,  said the development marks a ‘significant milestone in the evolution of how we consume electricity’.

In what is believed to be the first system of its kind, Flexitricity said it could potentially deliver a productivity boom for the whole of the UK – while pointing towards how the Smart Grid of tomorrow might change our consumption habits.

Flexitricity partners with businesses throughout the UK to provide reserve electricity to National Grid.

Dr Martin, a professional energy engineer whose experience includes gigawatt-scale coal and nuclear power stations, He said: “Footroom, or demand turn-up, offers tremendous potential to the UK – not only does it put the country at the very forefront of developing and implementing the Grid of tomorrow, but it opens up a world of possibilities for business and for renewable energy developers.

 “Currently, when the wind is at its strongest, the Grid turns large power stations down or off.  But it can’t turn down all of them, so sometimes it has to turn off some of the wind farms. This wastes a free resource.

“We can’t control when the wind blows, so wind farms sometimes generate more electricity than we can use. During the night, for example, when electricity demand is low, there may be wind energy available, but traditional coal and gas power stations are still kept running. This ensures they can ramp up quickly for the sharp rise in demand that happens at breakfast time every day, when people wake up, turn the lights on, and make themselves a morning coffee.

“With renewable energy making up an ever-increasing proportion of the UK’s electricity mix, National Grid often has to pay wind farms (and often hydro and conventional power stations as well) not to generate. These actions are expensive, and in the case of wind, a waste of free, renewable electricity.

 “With Footroom, businesses can boost productivity for minimal extra cost and are incentivised to do so. In turn, the Grid can increase the amount of electricity distributed to homes from clean, renewable energy sources.

The service works by sending a signal to connected businesses, notifying them of an approaching increase in wind and the opportunity to increase demand.  Those who do respond receive a payment in addition to the extra electricity.

With Scotland being the windiest country in Europe – boasting around 25% of Europe’s overall wind resource – enough electricity was generated from Scottish wind turbines to power 164% of the country’s households in 2014.

Dr Martin added: “Scotland has a huge advantage as it has Europe’s largest share of this clean source of power. With Footroom, we are able to unlock the potential we cannot currently tap into and help deliver cleaner, more abundant power to our businesses and households.

 “This will have a huge impact across the whole of the UK – and could give businesses connected to the system a competitive edge over European competitors.”

National Grid’s estimate of savings to consumers can be found at:

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