Oxford goes large on hybrid storage, EVs and heat pumps


Oxford City Council has received government funding to build what it terms a ‘Superhub’ – a massive lithium ion-flow storage hybrid that underpins a network of EV chargers via a 10km private wire around the city.

The project will also install 300 heat pumps, which, along with the battery and EVs, will be smartly controlled to enable flexibility trading.

The hub will consist of a 48MW lithium ion battery plus integrated 2MW/5MWh flow storage connected directly to the transmission system at Cowley substation, south Oxford. Pivot Power is raising investment for the project with government body UKRI putting up £10m. RedT is the flow battery provider. Habitat Energy will trade the flexibility, largely on the wholesale markets. Kensa Contracting will provide the ground source heat pumps.

As well as powering a public ‘ultra-rapid and fast’ charging network of around 100 charging points, the plan is to run the private wire to council depots on either side of the city, enabling electrification of Oxford’s fleet, ultimately even the bin lorries. Pivot Power chief commercial officer, Matthew Boulton, is hopeful other logistics firms will connect to the network.

“We already have three offtake points from the council. We would love to pick up both the city bus depots and two or three big fleet points along the way,” said Boulton.

The heat pumps do not require a connection to the private wire, but will be linked to a shared ground loop system. They will be controlled by the same software that Habitat is developing to trade power from the battery.

Habitat director Ben Irons said the grant funding enables the company to ramp up R+D activity and further enhance their forecasting and algorithmic trading capability. He said Habitat will start virtual trading of the battery “as soon as possible” to demonstrate the revenue potential for the £41m project and execute the optimisation strategy.”

He added that the company is also keen to apply its platform to EV charging and heat pump optimisation so that vehicles are charged – and houses kept warm – at least cost as part of a tradeable cross-vector system.

The aim is to use RedT’s units, which do not degrade, to provide “some heavy lifting” and assess how they perform in a hybrid system, said Pivot’s Boulton.

Once the final investment decision is made, RedT will have “six months from notice to proceed to delivery,” said Boulton, with the company aiming to pack 72 of its vanadium redox flow storage units into 18 containers.

Energy storage will eat battery storageWhile RedT has built a 1MWh lithium-flow hybrid in Melbourne, Australia, CEO, Scott McGregor, said the Oxford system would be the “largest vanadium/lithium hybrid system to have been installed globally”.

The consortium hopes to gain planning consent by summer and deliver the storage, private wire and EV chargers by 2020, with the heat pumps installed by 2021, when the Renewable Heat Incentive closes.

Councillor Tom Hayes said the project would “move the council closer” to its goal of becoming a zero carbon city. He said businesses were investing in the city because of its investment in projects “exactly like the Superhub”.

“[It] will enable the City Council to install more electric vehicle charging points of the kind that charge vehicles quickest,” he said. “It gives Black Cab drivers additional support to shift from 100% diesel today to 100% electric in the next few years. It enables the council to move our own vehicles to electric on a faster timescale and, crucially, to install heat energy across homes to tackle fuel poverty.”

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