Water and wastewater treatment is a really energy intensive process – power is one of our biggest operating costs – so we’re looking both inside and outside our business to see how we can work smarter. That means using less power and being willing to be flexible in the way we use that power.
United Utilities was the first company in the North West and the first water firm in the country to sign-up for Open Energi’s Dynamic Demand technology. The system acts like a ‘virtual’ power station, allowing National Grid to even out temporary peaks and troughs in demand instead of turning power stations up and down.
A smart box installed at United Utilities’ sites allows its process equipment to “talk” to the grid. Motors and pumps can automatically adjust their energy consumption in seconds in response to variations in power frequency.
In 2014 United Utilities trialled the initiative at three sites – its wastewater treatment plants at Bolton and Birkenhead and a water pumping station at Hoghton near Blackburn. The results were so successful that it is now rolling out the programme across the whole North West region and evaluating new processes that could work with the technology.
To date United Utilities has installed the technology at 13 sites, including many of its larger activated sludge plants, (biological wastewater treatment) including Davyhulme in Manchester, St Helens, Preston, Runcorn, Warrington and Widnes. The technology has become part of the sites’ day to day operation, with no detrimental effect on the treatment or pumping process. The system is monitored by Open Energi on behalf of United Utilities, generating revenue for the business and in turn helping to offset rising energy costs.
By 2020 United Utilities aims to provide National Grid with 50MW of flexible capacity from various Demand Side Response solutions – enough to displace a peaking power station. The income this will generate will be reinvested into site assets to reduce operating costs.
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