Dingle to be €4m 'test bed' for how grid will meet growing demand for power
Dingle in Co Kerry will today be unveiled as a demonstration town by ESB Networks to test how the smart electricity network of the future will operate.
New and existing homes will be fitted with solar panels, electric vehicle charging points and battery storage as part of a €4m demonstration project to see how the grid copes with additional demands for power.
High-tech equipment will also be used to measure consumption, help the grid to "heal itself" in the event of outages by transferring power to homes through other lines and assess how the system deals with outages caused by extreme weather.
Details will be revealed today at the launch of ESB Networks' Innovation Strategy, which aims to meet the challenge of a changing energy market, deploying technology to help drive the shift to a low-carbon future.
Managing director Marguerite Sayers told the Irish Independent demand for electric vehicles and data centres would result in a need for more power, and that the system had to adapt to changing needs.
"You could do a lot of vanity projects which aren't proven," she said. "We think lots of things are going to work, and we want to carry out trials. We want to have a test bed, and Dingle is the location.
"One of the reasons is it's a contained area, and we can do a lot of tests on a peninsula. It's quite remote in electrical terms. About one million visit every year, even though there's around 3,000 inhabitants. The load flexes up and down and that's a challenge, and Kerry sees quite a lot of extreme weather."
The company has set out eight different areas which need further exploration including connecting renewables, electrification of heat and transport, network resilience and customer engagement. Outages have reduced by 70pc following a €6bn capital investment plan over the last decade, but use of EVs and data centres has resulted in increased demands.
The company will spend €4.8bn out to 2020 on the grid, and says it can accommodate some 400,000 electric cars, 20pc of the national fleet, with minimum investment. Data centres pose a challenge.
"There's huge interest in Ireland for data centres. That's a huge challenge. The current load in Dublin is around 1200MW. We have 1000MW in applications from fairly credible data centres," Ms Sayers said.
The company is increasingly using 'grid edge' devices, where the system automatically isolates faults in the network and re-routes power.
At the end of the year, some 3,800MW of wind power will be on the system, and she expects a national target to produce 16pc of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 to be met two years early. The introduction of smart meters will make it easier for homeowners with solar panels to sell excess power back to the grid, she added, but government policy is needed.