Energy research and development facility launched in Gateshead

Researchers in the North of England are teaming up to explore future energy systems.

Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has launched InTEGReL (Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory) the UK’s first fully integrated energy systems research, development and demonstration site, as part of its work to develop a fully integrated, zero carbon energy network.

The £30m site in Gateshead will be operated in collaboration with Northern Powergrid and Newcastle University, together with the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration.

Teams of academics and engineers will tackle the UK’s energy challenges, working to deliver breakthroughs in the decarbonisation of heat, energy storage and transport.

The principal aim of the new facility will be to identify the most affordable and practical solution to moving customers onto low carbon, low cost energy.

Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets Director at Northern Powergrid, explained: “Working in partnership, we’ll be able to test for the first time how electricity and gas can work together and explore new ways to provide a whole energy system that could deliver sustainable, low carbon energy solutions for customers in a more affordable manner.

“Initially we’ll focus on balancing intermittent low carbon energy, such as solar, against demand, including heat, by using electrical and gas storage and transfers of energy between the two systems. Further project phases might explore novel storage and conversion technologies or the interaction with transport. Learning from this exciting project could help form the building blocks of future systems to seamlessly manage gas and electricity flows that could benefit the UK and beyond for generations to come.”

The site will feature the latest smart grid technology and research into battery storage, and will be at the forefront of hydrogen expertise, building on NGN’s H21 City Gate project, which proved that the existing gas network has the capacity to be converted to zero carbon hydrogen.

When completed, the site will host a high-tech battery storage and research lab, domestic appliances and smart system demonstration homes as well as hydrogen and CNG refuelling stations for vehicles.

Phil Taylor, Head of Engineering at Newcastle University and Head of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, said: “Computer models can only take us so far in understanding energy systems and developing and evaluating new techniques and technologies, so there is a critical need for full-scale integrated energy system research and demonstration facilities where new ideas can be trialled and evaluated.

“These facilities are key in building confidence in new methods and technologies, in terms of both performance and safety, and this is what underpins our research at Newcastle University. Through integrating the learning from our smart grid laboratory, energy storage test bed on Science Central and now InTEGReL, the aim is to test the whole energy system and really understand how we need to evolve and adapt to meet future supply and demand.”

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