Orkney 2. Building the Future | Fully Charged

Orkney 2. Building the Future | Fully Charged

Hello and welcome to another episode of
Fully Charged. Now this is the second in our series of videos from the amazing
islands of Orkney. In this episode we’re talking to a
company that are driving progress in housing this both renewably powered and
affordable by incorporating solar PV, amazing insulation, air source heat pumps
and home battery storage into the very building design. Mark we’re standing in
front of a new house with a Tesla Powerwall on it and I’ve noticed solar
panels built in on the roof so this is a I mean I take it this is this was built
with all this stuff already integrated, already planned into its construction?
Yeah so we’ve partnered with Orkney Builders who have build these extremely
efficient homes to install solar panels and Tesla batteries to store the
output from the solar panels but further to storing the output from the
solar panels we also charge the batteries from the grid when there’s
lots of wind generating in Orkney so in Orkney we’ve got lots of wind farms
generating lots of nice, clean electricity and we want people to use
more of that so we use the battery to store electricity from the grid when it’s available.
Because that is quite different to say down in the south of England where people have got solar panels and you know, we’ve been to a house with a PowerWall and
they were definitely only charging the batteries from the solar.
It’s a very different grid on Orkney isn’t it? It’s very different here yeah we do get solar
sometimes we do get sun believe it or not in Orkney but mainly it’s wind.
We get a lot of wind up here. We’ve got about 70 megawatts of wind
energy on the grid, about 20 megawatts of local demand so we need to find ways to
use more electricity and having storage allows us to do that so that’s what
we’re setting this this whole estate up to do is to store that wind energy
for when it’s needed later on. We think every home should have a
battery. We think in 10 years time it’s entirely possible that every home could
have a battery to help store the renewables that we’re generating across
the grid. So here in Orkney, with the amount of renewables that we’ve got on,
we are starting off with this housing estate, 30 homes, putting Tesla Powerwall
batteries in all of the homes. We have a cloud software platform which we use to
control the batteries and tell them when to come on and charge from the grid. So on a
windy day like today when people don’t necessarily need the electricity during
the day we store it up in the battery for later use during the night time or evening.
I mean for the people who live in these houses, does it does it equate to a cheaper electricity bill?
Absolutely yeah, so we store their on-site solar generation for them so rather than some
of that escaping out into the grid which is lost to them we save that for
them for when they come home later on to pass on the full benefit of energy
storage we also shift supply to them to periods a very low wholesale market
price so generally the more wind energy the more solar that comes on to the grid
the lower the wholesale market prices are. It has to make sense economically
and financially I mean subsidies have driven the early growth
of renewables and they’ve done their job; they’ve brought the costs down
for solar and for wind but now solar and wind are pretty much the lowest cost
form of electricity that’s available so offshore wind, onshore wind, solar they’re
all competing with fossil fuels. Another five ten years down the line they’re gonna be cheaper but we need storage to make all that work and that’s what
we’re trying to do here. So Steve tell me about what is special
about these houses because I can tell there’s a bit of thought gone into them.
Yeah well the key to us was making a house that’s got a very low operating cost and
is very sustainable and energy efficient and also we didn’t want to have a big
infrastructure cost for the client so we didn’t want to be putting in an awful
lot of renewable technologies that have potentially big maintenance and
refurbishment cost over their life cycle. So we think we’ve come up with a
solution here that is groundbreaking. In some respects it goes back to basics; it
gives people more control over their home but by doing so you’re allowing people
to become prosumers rather than consumers and they’re more proactively
using the house. We’ve incorporated solar PV as you can see behind me
because naturally you want to generate and retain as much energy on the site as
you can. That retention is possible by providing Tesla batteries.
I’m assuming like the insulation and the doors and windows are pretty state-of-the-art? Yeah in Scotland now part of the requirement from building regulation is that you have to
do air-permeability testing. These houses tested just a little more
than ‘Passive Houses’ in terms of the air permeability so they’re very, very well
built. They’re air tight.
So they’re actually heated with air source heat pumps are they? Yeah they’re space heated rather
than heating every single apartment, the volume of air within the
house is kept up to temperature using air source heat pumps and the
occupants are finding that very efficient and really convenient so far.
And presumably a lot cheaper to run than if you had a gas boiler in here, particularly here where you haven’t got mains gas it’s gonna be really expensive Yeah in Orkney we don’t have gas we’ve got primary fuel source: right
now, the only option really is electricity We’ve been completely electric
for a number of years. Oil was the other alternative but naturally now we can’t
put oil-fired boilers in so given that were all electric, given that we do need
an element of renewables and efficiency in terms of how we heat, air source heating in this case, was the perfect answer. I would hope that some of these houses the
annual energy cost, depending on lifestyle, it should be six or seven
hundred quid a year for a three or four bedroom house. Depends on hot water
usage and things like that but you know again adding things like the solar PV
it’s going to help by probably a couple of hundred quid a year in energy
consumption which is quite big when you consider that might be 15 to 20 percent of the total cost. Yeah so we’re quite excited to see the results.
And is the unit cost of building these much greater than if you built you know I don’t know
in the way they were built ten years ago? Again the unit cost here no because
what we’ve done this use a standard timber frame build system and
it’s a closed panel system like we’re using on every single private house,
every council house, every affordable house right now but in actual fact what
we’ve done here is take the infrastructure costs down by taking out
the big central heating system and taking it all back to basics. So you’ve got much less plumbing in the
house for a start, if nothing else. Absolutely, the subcontractor costs on these houses
are really, really low but they the level of control-ability for the houseowner is really high.
Because it’s often that “Oh it’s alright for your fancy
pants, you know, passive house, cost-a- fortune, it’s not fair, what about normal
people?” This is actually a cheaper alternative. Well yeah and the crux of
the thing for me is; what is the point of renewable energy if the people
living in an everyday house in the UK can’t actually enjoy the benefit?
So hopefully this model is exactly as you say; it’s going to become a model. We
would like to use it as a tangible model to demonstrate how you can take people
off the gas network, take people onto electricity network and then allow
renewable generation to really… …To really kick in which it has. It’s kicked in big-time in Orkney hasn’t it? My goodness! So guys what I’m assuming is:
Orkney is such a brilliant testbed, it’s an amazing place to experiment, to try
different technologies out and it really feels from talking to you that that’s
very much a part of the reason you’re doing what you’re doing here?
Yeah absolutely. I mean Orkney’s kinda really setting this scene I guess for the
future of energy. It’s a real hive of activity in the Renewable sector.
We’re already at the stage where we’re producing a lot more than we need
ourselves locally so it’s a real testbed for all things renewables and what
we’re doing now with energy storage is all about finding ways to use more and
more of the energy that we generate locally ourselves. The situation here is so unique and obviously something that we’re heading towards.
Cause I mean even you know the entire British Isles is now
occasionally 17-20 percent renewables so that the renewables are growing so quickly.
Yeah the grid is becoming greener as we go on so over the last
20-30 years we’ve shifted from a real dependence on fossil fuels toward one
where we’ve got more and more renewables contributing to our energy mix so where
we are today is about 20-25 percent of the grid being powered by renewables and
grids at the moment are comfortable taking those kinds of levels. Any more
than that the grid starts to become unstable and really if you look ahead to
the future vision of having 100% renewables in whatever timescale that
might be, if we want to get to that point we need to have flexible demand, we need
to have storage so essentially yeah we deploy batteries across the grid in
homes and businesses and we have a cloud software platform which we use to
control those batteries across the grid. When there’s lots of renewables on the
grid wholesale market prices tend to go down and we tell our battery network to
charge from the grid during those times so it helps the grid, it helps the
renewable generation and it helps consumers to take advantage of the
cost reduction that renewables are bringing onto the systems.
The other thing we can do with with this virtual power plant model is export energy back
into the grid so rather than just using the network to store energy from the
grid for our consumers we can also take excess stored energy
across the grid and put it back into into the grid at the right times of the
day so instead of asking peaking plants to come on to meet peak demand, we can
satisfy that demand by putting that stored energy back into the system to
clean up the grid. I think that’s something that a lot of people
don’t understand is that at the moment we pay for for instance a coal plant to
not generate electricity because we don’t need it and that costs the
consumer that cost people who pay electricity bills actual money. I mean
it’s actually quite a lot of money. It’s just that understanding of what a subsidy is, that people say “Oh renewables are
subsidised” but actually coal is subsidised, gas is subsidised, in a
different way, it’s a slightly different model. We’re actually paying them a subsidy
to keep the system running. There has to be a better way to do it I mean
rather than paying nuclear or fossil fuel plants to shut down and at the same time
pay renewable generation to turn their demand down, let’s invest in the
infrastructure to absorb that renewable when it’s there so that’s what energy
storage can do. The big game-changer here I guess is the falling
cost of energy storage so I mean we’ve seen a huge cost reduction in
lithium-ion technology over the last ten years being driven largely by the EV
market so that’s going to continue going down over the coming years and it’s a
real disrupter for the way the energy system works. What we do is reduce our
cost of supply by only sending low cost electricity to our customers. We also pay
less to use the grid because we’re using the grid at times when the grid wants us
to use the grid. So the model looks a bit like this:
it’s essentially a cloud software platform which we use to talk to all our batteries across the grid. In real-time we monitor their state of charge and we monitor the use of
electricity in the home. We take that data and we put it through a data
analytics platform we also take in feeds of weather forecasting data and
electricity price forecasting data. We also take in information from grid
operators to say what they want us to do on the grid at any particular time.
In a nutshell I guess this is what a battery might be doing over the course of a day
it depends on the home where the batteries is
deployed but at nighttime when there’s lots of excess wind energy for example
on the system we would charge up our network. In the morning rather than the
customers electricity coming from the grid, it instead comes from the low-cost
renewable energy stored in the battery. During the day if the customer has a PV
system on their roof then we would top up the battery again from that. Again we
kind of take them off grid then for the evening period and then we would if
there is excess stored energy across our network we send up back into the into
the grid later in the evening. Wow, so a totally different picture to what we’re
used to in the past. Completely different. It’s a real big change I guess
and it’s only been made possible by the data revolution that that ability to
monitor and control things in real time. Unless that was there it just wouldn’t
be possible to really do this so yeah lots of disruption happening. This disruption is driving a lot of
innovation. It’s gonna take time to really prove that these models work I
guess but yeah what we’re trying to do here is is put a physical project on the
ground that really gets the message across and that you can take people
along and see and really in Orkney because because there there’s
so much evidence of the change towards renewables with wind energy and
marine renewables and solar really starting to take off; people can make
that link between the energy that’s being generated and how they use that
that energy and that’s what we’re really trying to do here is to is to make a
real physical footprint of the system that we’re talking about rather than
just talking about it. In our next episode from Orkney, coming
soon, we’ll be getting up close with some of the amazing tidal turbines that could
generate huge amounts of predictable and reliable energy for the islands while
fostering the knowledge and skills to bring even more renewable technology to the world
but that’s all we’ve got time for please do subscribe to Fully Charged and please
do check out the Patreon link just below this video have a look, just in case and
obviously as always if you have been thank you for watching.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Very interesting episode.I live in NE Scotland and the wind power sector is getting very big here as well.It has convinced me to invest in battery storage for the house as well.

  2. I have solar PV in England but cannot use cheap nighttime electricity to top up a battery or use a battery when the grid goes down as neither is allowed by the power provider. So, at £6000 for a 14kWh battery, it is in no way financially viable as yet. In other countries this is already enabled so why not in England?

  3. Just a detail, but typically, we don't pay coal stations not to generate when there is overall too much generation. Actually, the coal stations typically buy the energy back. If you want to find a subsidy in that system, the price they buy it back at is usually below the market price.

  4. "He dreamed of the mainland and it's Timpsons key cutting and shoe repair repair bar, he dreamed of going to the costa coffee and meeting the waitress with plenty of tit to spare"

  5. Rob, have you thought about setting some kind of TIP JAR to your channel. One where someone who doesn't want to commit to sending you a sub using patreon, can just drop a one time amount if they liked the video.

  6. Is this the only place where this is being tested? I have been hearing about the possibility of this model being applied for such a long time (three or four years), but I think this is the first time there is a large scale application.

  7. Robert, one day are you able to explain how the energy market works in the U.K.? I don't understand how we pay for standby power stations? And wholesale prices? Does everyone buy and sell to the grid, then the energy company's buy on behalf of the consumer?

  8. I'd love loads more details on the house, heatpump vs gas, can heatpump provide cooling in summer etc etc cost of house, who builds them, available to be built in England or Wales etc etc….

  9. Often I get into debates about renewables and I love using Orkney as a example of what a large city could do to reduce carbon dependency. Wish this would be on international news to stick it to the politicians who haven't got it yet.
    Enjoyed your Tesla add Robert.

  10. Robert, really like the show, and think you are doing good stuff by raising awareness about the grid. But I think that sometimes your opinions about coal, gas and nuclear come across as very biased.

    Plants that are paid to be on standby provide a valuable service and are not subsidised. Till we have enough cheap electricity storage on the grid, they allow us to use electricity when we need to. This optionality has a value and a cost, which needs to be accounted for.

    It is more analogous to insurance than it is to subsidy. Keep on the good work!

  11. Robert, if you want to see a cheaper house that is self-sustainable, then google earthship.com I would love to see an episode on that one 🙂

  12. These just make too much sense for new houses, why wouldn't we build these where possible if they're cheaper or equivalent cost to build and then cheaper to run/greener for the lifetime of the house. I want one!

  13. The solar panels on the houses seemed to have a lower profile than normal or is it just me.Enjoyed the video as always.Thanks.

  14. It should be mandatory for all new builds to have solar collection and batteries. All new housing in Hawaii, must have solar panels as the power grid cannot keep up the demand. That was implemented at least 5 years, when I was there.

  15. < 25,000 people in Orkney, but hopefully it can all be scaled up "big time". :-

    Robert, are you not grateful to those of us who occasionally just *listen*? 😉

  16. 10/10
    Universal Power Supply (UPS) services by power packs combined with the role of an on-grid battery is the way how to utilise dispersed battery systems in the most efficient manner and make the investment pay itself back more quickly.
    In the case of a blackout, a house can have it's own power supply, at other times they serve as a supply/demand equaliser, earning money in the process.
    Such project will show what the price difference must be so that money earned by electricity trading is more than the cost of battery degradation due to charge/discharge cycles.

    This is the future of a Smart grid.

  17. not sure if I like the idea of having them Tesla batteries outside and really low to the ground! could anyone that knows the system kinda take it off the wall.. how are they secured for anti theft ? can just see in the news a gang going round stealing them, like they do with the lead of roofs!

  18. Why keep the battery on the outside of the house? Isnt it much smarter having it inside, thinking of temperatures and the efficiency of the battery…

  19. Saw the word SCADA in the business model slides. I hope these guys are building serious security into the network against Stuxnet style attacks. Everything looked great.

  20. Any British person should easily be able to understand the clip from 4:00. The same could not be said if he were Glaswegian 🙂 A fantastic episode showing houses of the future.

  21. Why doesnt the grid ea the cost and put batteries near their wind turbines instead of people in their individual houses, seems less efficient

  22. Really enjoy your videos. Have been watching you since pretty much the start. Have been subbed for ever, followed on Instagram and Twitter etc.. tagged you in lots of posts, comment regularly, even ask you questions a lot.

    My only gripe is that despite years of interaction and following I have never had any form of reply 🤦🏼‍♂️

  23. There is a kind of poetry in that the harder it blows, the warmer are its people. Unless you step outside, of course. Then your face falls off (in winter).

  24. Despite what people might think, solar panels do work on cloudy days and even rainy days. Just not very efficiently. They generate less power, but its usually still enough for your home. There just wont be much excess. Thats my experience with a 4.3kw system on my house.

  25. All good and fine, but is this allowed? I mean: are there not any privacy rules in place that do not allow companies to have control over a battery storage system that actually is not theirs to begin with? How does that work? Do be aware: I'm not anti-storage or anti-durable energy, I'm actually hugely in favour. I'm just wondering how that works, because I know by hard that this not allowed in the Netherlands.

  26. Tides are ultra-reliable and predictable, unlike wind and solar. Unless Kryten accidentally blows up the moon, that is.

  27. So, why can't Orkney citizens just go purchase the Powerwall, solar panels, and ancillary equipment themselves to install? Why the wedging middlemen? If you are the sole owner you are not bound by any contracts.

  28. That graph at 8.30 looks very out of date. Coal will be 0 long before 2040. The last coal fired power station is due to be switched off in 2023, if not sooner. And with the crashing costs of renewables too that green line should be an S curve, surely??

  29. Yesterday 63.9% of the German net electricity generation was produced from renewables.
    So of course you can still go a long way after 25% renewables before storage becomes essential, but it is always a good thing to start as early as possible with beneficial new technology.

  30. Great technology, but the houses are extremely ugly, as are all new build uk houses to be honest. architecture for homes has regressed, that house could be anywhere, nothing about its design says it's on Orkney, if those homes weren't a 'green energy project' I doubt the council would have allowed such cheap looking designs through planning, or maybe they would have 'sigh', good architecture, quality and aesthetics do not have to be sacrificed on the altar of 'affordable housing' or 'sustainability' and 'eco living'. There is nothing 'green' about pvc windows and doors, they should've used more natural materials. And white render in a place like Orkney? Big no no. Not a home you could be proud of. All that said, a good step in the right direction in terms of solar pv.

  31. Out of curiosity, considering that they are building a community of houses, why did they go with a battery pack in each house instead of community level battery or micro-grid? As I understand it large scale commercial batteries are much cheaper than individual modules.

  32. I always had difficulty identifying Irish and Scottish accent from each other. Now I have a test:
    1-Does he/she sound like shrek = Scottish
    2- would the person pronounce car like KEARR = Irish

  33. Would the performance on the power pack be decreased by having the battery outside in the cold in the winter? As usual this show is informative.

  34. Majority of Britons are very conservative. That's why you building houses same as 30 years age. I am working on new builds around London. Government let big house building companies make money and use all cheap and inefficient methods to build new houses. So basically close circle. Only some self builders build few energy efficient houses. Poor country compere with GB where I from have law to build new houses with energy efficiency of A+ and next year it goes to A+. Thats means you pay a little bit more when building but after that you need very very little energy to heat your house and so on

  35. It's a shame they look like 60's council houses.  They could have at least clad them i something other than pebble dash!

  36. I was told my mpan wasn't good enough for a pw2! How can something which reduces draw from the grid and to the grid not fit on my system? Anyone know please?

  37. If you eat meat you may as well drive a diesel…or even worse a petrol car. Childhood cancer…look to petrol not diesel; what has smaller particulates?

  38. To take advantage of cheap wind energy need at least 2 x Powerwall 2 batteries not a Powerwall 1 ? Only 2kW solar is not needed in Orkney?

  39. I wish the current Australian federal government would watch this , they are like the Ostrich with its head in the sand. Ha

  40. Nasa says we are heading into a Solar minimum period 2019/20, more clouds and much colder weather is due. Between 1309 and 1814, the Thames froze at least 23 times. The reason was low sun spot activity and the North Atlantic Oscillation sucking in weather from Siberia. There is a possibility by 2030 that this area will be frozen all year, is the battery good for prolonged cold and how will those panels cope with the forthcoming crazy weather. In the last Solar Minimum period, the Orkneys suffered a H7 storm with hailstorms over 50mm in diameter which obviously broke all the glass on South facing windows, but also smashed the wooden structures to pieces. 2030 doesn't seem that far away.
    If you could build some like this in Devon, then I'd be in the queue.

  41. Batteries are getting better and better every other year. They will double the capacity by 2020. We are transitioning to a civilization, where most things are electric.

  42. Finally, an episode that is subtitled. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you SOOOOO much.

    I'm hard at hearing and usually have a hard time catching every word being said on some of your episodes (although the auto-generated subtitles DO assist some, but gets more wrong than right). FINALLY I'm getting it all. I sincerely hope, that this won't be a one-time thing only.

    Love this channel and the work it is doing to promote green living. Keep up the good work, Bobby 👍

  43. An amazing video Robert, well done to you and the team. I hope we can see some companies like this start up in Australia. We need creative industries like these to drive energy change down here!

  44. Apply a notch filter near 4300 Hz for the outdoor microphone segment from 0:52 to 3:42. Gets rid of the high pitch electronic whine.

  45. Great video Robert and really pleased to see you showcasing the technologies suited to the buildings we live and work in. At SPECIFIC in South Wales we're taking a very similar approach to Solo Energy by creating Buildings as Power Stations and also developing new technologies, such as thermal storage, that can improve such buildings and help bring this vision to reality even sooner. We're even working on those Pervoskite solar cells one of your commenters mentioned.

  46. For me Mr adverage JO, I see car batteries which are only used for short distances, could be utilsed to power the peek times. My commute to work round trip is 40 miles, so for the new Nissan leaf range of over 200 miles, that leaves (+ 20 miles for unformseens), 140 miles of battery engery for domestic home use, and that could improve if my employer installed charging point at the works car park. For the adverage Jo Tesla Wall batteries systems are out of reach, but second hand EV cars might not be!!!

  47. Grid sized battery storage will become bigger than home battery systems. This is how coal dies — super cheap renewables plus battery storage
    New Colorado wind farms with batteries are now cheaper than running old coal plants
    "The median bid price in 2017 for wind plus battery storage was $21 per megawatt-hour,
    which is 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour. As Carbon Tracker noted,
    this “appears to be lower than the operating cost of all coal plants currently in Colorado.”"

  48. The CEO of solo energy should be ashamed of himself,saying we don’t get much sun up here. Clearly only interested in selling his wind powered energy to the daft consumer. They have 4 solar panels on those new build houses. That’s an embarrassment, the whole roof should be covered in them and then most of their
    Power needs would come from solar and then top up with wind.

  49. I'm a bit surprised hydrogen is completely ignored in this equation. OK, we're two years on from this video. I know hydrogen as a storage medium is beginning to become more mainstream as well, now. I know Tesla, one of the sponsors here, is totally against hydrogen, but on mainland Europe it is being tested now.

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