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A unique multi-site £9m smart energy testbed, the Integrated Smart Energy Lab (ISE Lab), has been launched in the region by the North East Energy Catalyst partnership, uniting the region’s smart energy capabilities to become the world’s first multi-site energy laboratory.

The Integrated Smart Energy Lab (ISE Lab) is a combination of complementary research and testing capabilities in the North East – home to where the national grid was first pioneered. It will enable new smart energy research, demonstration and industry engagement, and includes digital and physical assets across multiple locations in the region, interconnected using high performance virtual platforms.

ISE Lab will combine Newcastle University’s Smart Grid Laboratory and Urban Science Building Energy Storage Test Bed, the Durham University Smart Grid Laboratory for demand-centric testing, decentralised testing and digitalised and data-centric testing, and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s 3MW and 15MW powertrain test, demonstration and research assets, including its 18MVA Grid Emulation system (eGrid).

Targeting all grid levels and supply-demand scenarios across the whole energy system, from national transmission grid level, to local consumer, building, and micro-grid level, the ISE Lab will also combine modelling with live ‘real-world’ asset and network data from sources such as EV charging, battery storage, hydrogen electrolysis, and energy generation.

The ISE Lab will offer new unique capabilities for those seeking to innovate, de-risk and commercialise smart energy solutions, such as energy companies, SMEs, academia and the regional supply chain.

Integrated smart energy systems and services are essential in decarbonising the energy system and optimising the use of low carbon energy sources, highlighted by recent dramatic changes in supply and demand patterns during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, ISE Lab will boost the North East’s green economic growth plans, as well as helping showcase solutions to global energy challenges, and contributing to the UK’s Net Zero carbon emission targets.

Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership which facilitates the North East Energy Catalyst, said: “The national grid was first pioneered in the North East so it is fitting that we are now the region bringing forward a new and unique lab facility that will help us better explore and exploit the benefits of integrated energy systems. This speaks to the strength of collaboration within our region.”

Tony Quinn, Test Facilities Director at ORE Catapult, said: “ISE Lab will bring together a combination of the best intellectual and physical assets that the region has to offer. It gives us a great opportunity to address and make a significant contribution to the technological changes required to achieve Net Zero.”

Dr Sara Walker, Director of the Centre for Energy, Newcastle University, said: “We are investigating the potential for our energy systems to be more integrated, for new technologies, for decentralisation of systems, and for greater digitalisation. Test beds are a valuable tool in that research. The ISE lab brings key strengths in our region together, and we are delighted to be a partner in this exciting initiative.”

Dr Hongjian Sun, Reader in Smart Grid at the Department of Engineering at Durham University, said: “Integrating energy systems has great potential to decarbonise all energy sectors including transport and heat; but it also brings new challenges such as multi-system modeling and coordination, real-time data collection and learning, and demand response. We are very glad to offer expertise and testing facilities through ISE lab initiative, and work with both industries and research organisations to tackle these challenges together.”

A portfolio of projects with industry, academic and public sector partners is now under development for the ISE Lab, facilitated by the North East Energy Catalyst partnership. For enquiries about utilising the ISE Lab please contact [email protected].

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