Delivering Orkney’s energy future

Orkney, 5G, Grid

Orkney is taking another step towards a carbon-neutral future with the development of a 5G-powered digital twinning system* to inspire people and businesses on the island to participate in the delivery of its new energy network.

Led by Heriot-Watt University’s ground-breaking GRID facility and supported by the Scotland 5G Centre, the project will develop a demonstrator that will create a virtual 3D environment that models Orkney and the different components in its energy system – from electric vehicles and domestic batteries, to generators and turbines.

The immersive simulator system will also build a virtual dashboard, which outlines some of the energy network’s key features, and model a live 5G data connection to key assets on the island.

5G-powered digital twinning system

Highly technical in nature, the use of decentralised energy networks and 5G infrastructure has largely been restricted to engineers and technology specialists. The demonstrator will be used to engage members of the public on Orkney and support their understanding of what can be achieved through new energy networks and the digital control enabled by 5G.

David Richardson, chief entrepreneurial executive at Heriot-Watt University, said:

“Our digital twinning system will demonstrate how Orkney’s new energy network will operate, what the different component parts are, how people can interact with it and collaborate to create a genuinely democratised energy system.

“It will be an engagement tool that helps people understand how they can get involved in helping the island maximise renewable energy and, ultimately, achieve a carbon neutral future. The system will show people what can be taken from the virtual world and made into a physical reality, helping communities to flourish with the use of renewable technology.”

Building on 5G RuralFirst

The project – expected to last an initial three months – builds on the 5G RuralFirst initiative already undertaken on Orkney and provides a foundation for the further use of 5G technologies on the island.

One of the Scotland 5G Centre’s flagship projects, Scotland 5G Rural Testbed – led by the University of Strathclyde and Cisco – is providing a 5G testbed on Orkney for a series of trials that could provide a pathway to move from the virtual into the real world ultimately delivering benefits for local communities and industries.

Gordon Ross, Innovation Strategist at Heriot-Watt University, added:

“There are ambitious projects already underway in Orkney to create a state-of-the-art distributed energy system, helping to secure an affordable, reliable and sustainable energy supply for the future.

“The future of energy is going to be defined by smart, distributed networks and micro-grids. For that to work to its maximum potential we need everyone to understand how it works and how they can get involved in making Orkney a ‘smart energy island’. The island is the ideal testing ground for principles that could be applied on a larger scale elsewhere.”

Derek Boyd, interim director at the Scotland 5G Centre, said:

“5G will be an integral part of enabling the smart energy systems of the future, delivering the ultra-reliable, low-latency connectivity that is required to manage these networks. We are working with organisations across Scotland to demonstrate its transformative potential.

“While the benefits of 5G are still to be understood for many people, this digital twinning project will go a significant way towards showcasing its potential and the positive impact the next generation of connectivity can have for society and the economy.”

Showcasing Scotland’s 5G potential and expertise

Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, commented:

“Given Scotland’s expertise in renewable energy, 5G technology will be integral to the creation of smart energy systems, and this exciting project demonstrates how 5G technology can support our island communities on the journey towards a carbon neutral future.

“I’m delighted that our Scotland 5G Centre is part of this fantastic collaboration, showcasing the innovative talent our universities and their partners possess.

“What’s also very appealing is that this project is designed to encourage understanding, listening and community engagement in what can often be seen as a very technical and specialist area. We know that 5G technologies have transformative potential in other areas such as healthcare and transport, and through innovative projects like this, we can illustrate the benefits that 5G can and will deliver for our industries and communities and the people within them.”

* A digital twin is a digital replica of a physical entity that can track data and performance metrics.

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